Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Search

Counter-Terrorism Bill - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

UK terror watchdog warns of counter-terrorism bill

The British government’s terrorism watchdog has warned that Prime Minister David Cameron’s counter-terrorism bill may backfire and play into the hands of terrorists. David Anderson...

UK government counter-terrorism bill would criminalize speech, political activity

By Jordan Shilton (WSWS) - The Conservative government in Britain is preparing to enact new legislation that, under the guise of the “war on terror,” will vastly...

House of Lords minor amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Bill – removing your innocent DNA...

Spy Blog | The House of Lords has voted to accept a minor Opposition Amendment regarding the removal of innocent people's DNA profiles, human tissue...

US Army lost track of $1 billion worth of arms & equipment in Iraq,...

Published time: 25 May, 2017 03:31 A newly released declassified audit from the US Department of...

Republicans introduce bills authorizing new military force against ISIS

A new House bill was introduced that would create a new Authorization for Use of Military...

Britain’s mass surveillance bill rubber-stamped by House of Lords

A sweeping new surveillance regime is set to become UK law before the end of the year after the Investigatory Powers Bill passed through...

Counter-Terrorism and Imperial Hypocrisy

Beijing. The information that Abu Anas al-Libi is now facing trial on charges of terrorism in New York enlarges the story of the terrorism and...

Secret courts bill hides government cover-ups

Liberties and freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta more than 800 years ago are under threat from the British government’s plans to deliver a bill...

$2 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan questioned

By Greg Miller | WASHINGTON -- The United States has paid more than $5 billion to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism expenses that have often...

New UK Law Could Criminalize ‘Politically Incorrect’ Opinions

A chilling comment by British Prime Minister David Cameron suggests that even people who obey the law won’t be “left alone” by the state...

Snowden leaks prove Canada is hacking on global scale

Documents show Communication Security Establishment boasts vast array of cyber warfare capabilities, works hand-in-hand with NSA Lauren McCauley Canada's spy agency, the Communication Security Establishment (CSE),...

Man banned from the UK for almost a decade finally discovers why

Victoria Parsons A complex case in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) raises concerns about a key new counter terrorism tool that the government...

UK to seize ‘foreign fighters’ passports

British Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined plans to seize passports from British nationals linked to armed groups and stop them returning from fighting...

RINFORMATION

USA Topics 9/11 Agenda 21 Assassinations Banks Bush, George Jr Boston Bombings Bohemian Grove CIA Cointelpro Corruption DARPA Democrats Disinformation Congress Drones Eugenics FBI Federal Reserve Guantanamo HAARP ...

New Israeli Discriminatory Laws Tabled

New Israeli Discriminatory Laws Tabledby Stephen LendmanIsrael reflects the worst of rogue state ruthlessness. State terror is official policy. Militarized occupation harshness reflects it. So does institutionalized racism.Israel's Knesset is its most ...

The Unnatural Death of Dr. David Kelly: Template for “Legalised Cover-up” of Political Assassinations

At the time of writing it is September 2013. What would happen if Dr Kelly’s body were to be found today? Or, what if...

Fury at Labour MPs ‘Orwellian’ tactics over DNA database vote

Liverpool Daily Post | LABOUR MPs were accused of “Orwellian” tactics last night after voting to make it all-but impossible for innocent people to...

42-day detention dropped as unworkable

Sean O’Neill | Gordon Brown is preparing for a humiliating climbdown over his proposal to hold terrorist suspects for 42 days after being told...

Blair Advisers Oppose Brown’s Terrorism Plan in House of Lords

By Kitty Donaldson | Two of Tony Blair's former ministers and his top domestic security official said they will vote against anti-terrorism laws proposed...

Rights body threatens to bring legal challenge on 42-day detention

By Alan Travis and Patrick Wintour | The government's human rights watchdog last night served notice that it will immediately launch a legal challenge...

Judges poised to deliver new blow on terror

By Sean O'Neill | Gordon Brown is facing a new battle over key anti-terrorism laws this week with the High Court set to rule...

Watchdog’s threat to 42-day terror law

Alan Travis | The Guardian The government's own human rights watchdog threatened last night to launch a legal challenge to Labour's plan to introduce a law...

Police to get new powers

Police could be given the power to question suspects after they have been charged, the Home Secretary has said.Although MPs are discussing the possibility...

Brown moots register for terrorists, DNA rights for MI5

By John Lettice Anti-terrorism proposals outlined by the Government today will include a sex-offenders style register for those convicted of terrorism offences, and will allow...

ACLU settles torture case with CIA-contracted psychologists

The ACLU has declared a “historic victory” following the settlement of its lawsuit against two CIA-contracted...

‘Win-win-win situation’: Los Angeles to host 2028 Olympics, giving Paris the 2024 games

Los Angeles, California has been awarded the 2028 Olympic Summer games. In order to finance the...

Queen’s Speech: Doubts cast on Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain

US President Donald Trump’s planned state visit to Britain may have been put on hold,...

Car Rams Police Van on Paris’s Champs-Élysées in ‘Attempted Attack’

A car loaded with gas canisters rammed into a police van on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris on Monday, leaving the driver...

To Understand Imperial Policy

Management and Logistical Failure? Quoting a recently declassified US government audit, Amnesty International reports that the US Army “has failed to keep tabs on more than...

US ramps up bombing in Afghanistan as Trump mulls troop surge

As the Pentagon lobbies President Donald Trump to send up to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan,...

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Condemns New US Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) today condemned the Trump Administration’s new $460 billion arms deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – $110 billion immediately...

Tory manifesto vows to ‘defeat extremism’… but lacks legal definition

One of the Conservative Party manifesto’s key pledges is to crush “the menace of extremism.”...

Britain now at ‘greater risk of terrorist attack than 6yrs ago’

The growing number of jihadists returning to the UK from Syria means Britain is now...

US military boosts weapons airdrops to Syrian opposition – reports

A growing number of opposition groups in Syria are getting increased weapons and ammunition supplies from the US Air Force to tackle Islamic State,...

Britain continues to back Saudi bombing of Yemen, despite US stopping arms sale

The US will halt a planned arms sale to Saudi Arabia due to “strong concerns”...

The Noose that Obama Had Wanted to Hand to President Hillary to Hang...

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org INTRODUCTION This will be a summary, update, and extension from, a 25,000-word masterpiece of historical writing: the obscure, little-noticed, but...

State Dept approves possible $1bn sale of Reaper drones to UK

The US State Department has approved a possible $1 billion sale of Predator B ('Reaper') drones, as well as equipment, training, and support to...

Sale of tear gas & water cannon to ‘human rights-abusing’ Gulf nations worth millions...

The UK government has once again been accused of “arming repression” in countries such as...

Bilateral Complicity: The Next US President and Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry (courtesy Wikimedia) The current US presidential campaign debate on Middle East policy...

15 Years of Crime

The United States and their allies will be commemorating the 15-year anniversary of 9/11. For Thierry Meyssan, it’s the occasion to take an honest...

NYPD investigates 2nd ‘potential device’ following Manhattan blast

New York's counter-terrorism and bomb disposal units are investigating a “potential” second explosive device near the...

Cost of US post-9/11 wars approaching $5trn – report

The US spent $4.79 trillion on wars in the Middle East and on the ‘War on...

Quid pro woah: Documents link Wisconsin governor to dark money

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faced threats of losing his title in 2012 during a recall election. He won, but documents newly leaked show that...

Retaliation: Reality Vs. Pundit Fantasy

The US military shelling Lebanon in response to the April 1983 Beirut embassy bombing did not discourage an even deadlier attack on the US...

UK surveillance powers have gone ‘further than any other Western democracy’ – MP

Britain has gone “further than any other Western democracy” in its expansion of surveillance powers and its ability to collect bulk data without justifiable...

The House Sit-In Would’ve Been More Powerful if It Rejected ‘No Fly, No Buy’

(Photo: YouTube) It was almost midnight when I found myself glued to the live video of scores of Democratic members of Congress, who were then about 12...

After Orlando, Democrats and Republicans Clamor for Expanded Police State

The horrific massacre in Orlando has once again thrust the specter of domestic terrorism into the limelight, and into the media space.  Pundits and...

How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools

Today, after 18 months of ferocious uphill organizing the Labor/Community Strategy Center reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the...

One Last Chance for Peace in Yemen

Sanaa, Yemen. 2005. (Photo: Charles Roffey / Flickr) Jakob Reimann On the night of January 5, a squadron of F-15 fighter jets from the Royal Saudi...

UN rapporteur: ‘Bad example’ UK should bin the Snoopers’ Charter

IPB The UN's special rapporteur on privacy has used his maiden report to the Human Rights Council, which he presented today, to criticise the...

Multinational corp or mafia? Hard to tell difference, says author

The controversy around Google’s tax deal with British tax officials grabbed headlines this past week, prompting further questions about how overseas criminals launder billions...

A Day in the Quality of Life at the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Institute’s panel on “Quality of Life” (photo: Manhattan Institute) Last week I rolled up to 7 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan for...

US officials seize on Paris attacks to press for “back door” to encryption

By Joseph Kishore US officials are moving rapidly to exploit the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday to push forward with already existing plans to undermine...

Leader of US war effort against Islamic State stepping down

The retired Marine general chosen by President Barack Obama to head military efforts against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) is leaving the...

Bipartisan agreement on austerity at Australian premiers’ summit

By Mike Head This week’s two-day “retreat” and summit involving Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the leaders of the country’s six states and two territories...

New York City police officers waited 20 minutes to report shooting of Akai Gurley

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Isaac Finn New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Peter Liang waited nearly...
Microphone surrounded by crowd at Trafalgar Square.

How Zionists Are Destroying Free Speech In Universities

If our universities can’t stand up to the Israel lobby and uphold free speech, how will the international community ever stand up to the...

Welcome To The TSA’s Creepy-Ass “Behavior Detection” Program

Does reading people's microexpressions stop terrorists, or just encourage pseudoscientific profiling? Airport security basically sucks: Being herded through a Tensabarrier maze alongside a bunch of...

Human rights? Only at the government’s discretion

FRANCES WEBBER There is more to the Tories’ proposals on human rights and free movement than mere electioneering, argues Frances Webber of the Institute...

Social Media giants will hand over info about suspected ‘terrorist’ activity

Social media outlets Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be asked by the UK government to automatically hand over information about suspected extremists who use...

David Cameron Wants To ‘Make It Easier To Take Passports Away’

David Cameron will make a statement to the House of Commons later today on proposals for new legislation which will “make it easier to...

Influential Neocon Calls for Boots on the Ground in Kurdistan

Sens. McCain and Graham demand further military action against ISIS Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a key figure of the neocon movement,...

8 Muslim countries have been bombed by Israel & the US this year

Chris Ernesto  RINF Alternative News There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, with 49 countries having a predominantly Muslim population. Of these countries, 4 have been bombed by...

FBI Entrapment Created ‘Illusion’ of Terrorist Plots: Report

A close look at government counter-terrorism tactics reveals that many people convicted would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging,...

Experts slam new UK ’emergency’ snooping law as illegal

RINF Altenrative News As David Cameron secured backing from all three major political parties today to introduce emergency legislation next week that will allow Internet and phone companies...

Every Internet user in the UK can be spied on without a warrant

Robert Stevens RINF  Alternative News The UK government has acknowledged that every UK citizen who uses Google and accesses web site services Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,...

Obama’s foreign policy speech angers progressives

In a speech rife with incongruities and contradictions, President Obama set out his vision and defense of U.S. foreign policy on Wednesday at the...

Establishment Media Insists Al-Qaeda is on the Cutting Edge of Encryption Tech Because of...

The cave-based Muslim terrorists who supposedly changed the laws of physics on September 11, 2011 are out there on the forefront of encryption software...

US Vice President Biden’s son, Kerry fundraiser take positions with Ukrainian gas firm

Patrick Martin RINF Alternative News The younger son of Vice President Joseph Biden has taken the position of member of the board of directors and...

Home Secretary aims to quash Lords rebellion on plans to make terror suspects stateless

The Home Secretary Theresa May will today call on MPs to vote down a House of Lords rebellion and grant her the power to make...

War Makes Us Poor

Washington's Blog Reprinted with permission Top Economists Say War Is Bad for the Economy Preface: Many Americans — including influential economists and talking heads - still wrongly assume that war is good for...

Obama: “Remaking the Middle East”: The American Gulag

Prof. James Petras RINF Alternative News During the beginning of his first term in office President Obama promised “to remake the Middle East into a region of prosperity...

What the Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn’t Do

Ten months after Edward Snowden’s first disclosures, three main legislative proposals have emerged for surveillance reform: one from President Obama, one from the House Intelligence Committee,...

What the Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn’t Do

Kara Brandeisky Ten months after Edward Snowden's first disclosures, three main legislative proposals have emerged for surveillance reform: one from President Obama, one from the House Intelligence...

Report whitewashes government’s role in Boston bombing

Nick Barrickman  RINF Alternative News A report released last week by the House Committee on Homeland Security pinpoints what it presents as failures of state, local...

CIA Intimidation, Obstruction and Spying on US Congress: Obama’s “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”

Joseph Kishore and Barry Grey  RINF Alternative News The speech delivered Tuesday on the Senate floor by Senator Dianne Feinstein provides clear and direct evidence of...

Budget Realignment Reflects Pentagon’s Vision of Covert and Endless War

Brian J. Trautman  RINF Alternative News The Pentagon’s budget proposal for next year was announced last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In an interview...

Meet the American Empire’s Favorite NGO: Human Rights Watch

Keane Bhatt  RINF Alternative News The world's most respected human rights group has deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors. Over more than a decade, the...

Washington’s “Global War on Terrorism”: Violence, War and Instability in an “Arc of Terror”

Nicolas J S Davies  RINF Alternative News Twelve years into America’s “war on terror,” it is time to admit that it has failed catastrophically, unleashing violence,...

Obama’s NSA “Reform” Defends Illegal Spying

Bill Van Auken  RINF Alternative News The Obama White House is preparing a National Security Agency “reform” package that is aimed at legitimizing and institutionalizing the...

The Real Grand Chessboard and the Profiteers of War

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The...

Obama advisory committee whitewashes US spying programs

By Joseph Kishore 19 December 2013 A report released Wednesday by the Obama administration's hand-picked presidential advisory panel on the National Security Agency's (NSA) spying programs consists...

White House Calls for Cosmetic Changes to Illegal NSA Spying

A hand-picked White House-sponsored panel is due to submit recommendations to the Obama administration this weekend as part of efforts to ensure the continuation...

White House-backed panel to call for cosmetic changes to illegal spying programs

By Joseph Kishore14 December 2013 A hand-picked White House-sponsored panel is due to submit recommendations to the Obama administration this weekend as part of...

Investigating the 9/11 Attacks. The NSA’s “Lone Wolf Terrorists” Justification for Mass Spying Is...

All of the Chairs of the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Investigation Into 9/11 Say It's “Implausible” that the 9/11 Hijackers Acted Without Government...

The NSA’s “Lone Wolf” Justification for Mass Spying Is B.S.

All of the Chairs of the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Investigation Into 9/11 Say It’s “Implausible” that the 9/11 Hijackers Acted without Government Backing The NSA’s main justification for Constitution-shredding mass surveillance on all Americans is 9/11. In reality: … Continue reading

The NSA’s “Lone Wolf” Justification for Mass Spying Is B.S. was originally published on Washington's Blog

Will Saudis Send U.S. Anti-tank Weapons to Salafist Mercenaries in Syria?

Saudis increasingly frustrated with U.S. effort to unseat Syria's Bashir al-Assad Kurt NimmoInfowars.comDecember 12, 2013 BGM-71 tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missile weapons system. Photo: U.S. Navy Does...

Gitmo founding general: Close the prison

Marine Major General Michael Lehnert: "The entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong". The US general who opened the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison says it...

UN will probe US, UK spying programs

The United Nations will launch an investigation into the massive surveillance programs of American and British intelligence agencies following revelations from US whistleblower Edward...

Military “Drone Club”: Europe to Boost its Defence Potential

Photo: dw.de On November 20 Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said that Russian government's spending for procurement of military equipment will increase by 25...

Karzai seeking more concessions from US

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has postponed signing a security deal with the United States because he wants to receive �œmore concessions” from the Americans,...

Asia Pivot Declared, US Army Eyes Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Africa in June-July was widely seen as evidence of the White House's broader foreign policy objectives which have...

War Without End in Afghanistan?

U.S. participation in the war in Afghanistan will be renewed, not ended, next year if the draft of a new security agreement is accepted...

School for Spies: A Guide to the U.S. Spy Network

Infographic below: 17: number of different agencies in the U.S. spy network $75 billion: estimated amount of money funding those 17 agencies They are (number of...

Washington’s puppet regime in Libya teeters on the brink

By Jean Shaoul18 November 2013 Libya's capital city Tripoli was at a virtual standstill yesterday. Most of Tripoli's businesses, schools and public sector workers...

Japan’s New State Secrecy Law Leading to Closer Involvement in US Military Build-Up Against...

The new State Secrecy Bill put forward by the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lead to a highly secretive regime and...

“Color Revolution” in Nepal: The World Converges to “Observe Elections”

by Arun Shrivastava and Silvia Germek The Democratic Republic of Nepal goes to the polls on 19th November to elect yet another Constituent...

Japan’s new state secrecy law

By John Watanabe16 November 2013 The new State Secrecy Bill put forward by the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lead to...

NSA powers beyond counterterrorism

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. Time and again we�™ve seen the National Security Agency (NSA) defend its vast surveillance apparatus...

The US Military Presence in Australia. The “Asia-Pacific Pivot” and “Global NATO”

Through the ANZUS alliance, Australia, like Japan and South Korea, has been a key part of the United States “hub-and-spokes” Asia-Pacific alliance structure for...

America’s Lethal Profiling of Afghan Men

Despite rules of engagement to the...

The Insecurity of Security: When U.S. “Intelligence” Becomes an Oxymoron or Just Moronic

On October 26, the NSA scandal finally triggered a protest in Washington. Activists of the left, liberal and libertarian persuasion took to the streets...

Police militarization expo Urban Shield descends on Oakland

Published time: October 26, 2013 03:58 AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino SWAT teams, military contractors and law enforcement from the world over are gathering...

The Cameron Response to Edward Snowden

In the latter part of last week, it became clear that any drives to reform the intelligence community in the United Kingdom would focus...

Global Drone Warfare, Targeted Assassinations Supported by NSA Surveillance

The Post’s report, “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program,” testifies to the integration of the surveillance apparatus exposed in recent months into US imperialism’s global military operations. Officials cited by the Post said that the NSA has deployed analysts to work along side Central Intelligence Agency personnel at the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at “every major US embassy or military base overseas.”

The report further documents the NSA’s systematic attempts to overcome encryption, including the extraction of PGP encryption keys from targets. The agency reportedly was able to capture 16 keys from a single electronic raid on a suspected Al Qaeda computer.

According to the report, the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations,” a cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering program, conducts surveillance of targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and throughout Africa. TAO runs programs such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR, which launch cyber attacks using “software implants” to grab sensitive data such as keystroke logs and audio files.

ArsTechnica reported in August that advanced software used by TAO enables operatives to tap directly into hardware such as “routers, switches and firewalls,” and that TAO’s activities are integrated into data systems such as XKeyscore.

Information gathered by the NSA has been used in particular in the course of the CIA’s drone war in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. As summarized by the Post, the NSA has “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan.” One US intelligence official told the Post, “NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA.” To date, at least 3,000 people have been killed as a result of US drone operations in Pakistan, including hundreds of civilians.

Both the NSA surveillance and the policy of drone war that it facilitates are criminal operations, carried out in violation of international law. The Obama administration asserts the right to kill anyone in the world without due process, including US citizens, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Among those killed have been US citizens including Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

A full accounting of the Pakistanis murdered by US drones may never be completed. However, a study published by Stanford University and New York University earlier this year showed that large sections of the population living in the FATA suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the buzzing of drones overhead and the never-ending barrage of ordnance raining down on the area.

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson wrote in March of this year, “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent, and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The Post described the leaked NSA documents as “self-congratulatory in tone” and “drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities.” According to Fox News, the Post withheld substantial information about the drone strikes “at the request of US intelligence officials.”

The Post report highlights the case of Hassan Ghul, who was killed as a direct result of intelligence acquired through electronic surveillance operations run by the NSA. After his capture in 2004, Ghul was held at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe until 2006, where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), including slapping, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

In 2006, Ghul was transferred to Pakistan, where he was released and rejoined Al Qaeda militants in Waziristan. Ghul worked to set up logistical networks for Al Qaeda after being freed, according to a Treasury Department document from 2011. No explanation has been offered by US or Pakistani authorities for Ghul’s release.

Ghul was then killed in 2012 by a drone strike in Mir Ali, after having been monitored for a year prior to his death by a secret NSA unit called the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC), which specializes in finding high priority targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Ghul’s location was discovered through analysis of an email sent to him by his wife. His death was never officially acknowledged by the US government, despite the fact that his interrogation supposedly provided intelligence about an Al Qaeda courier named al-Kuwaiti, which supposedly led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The scope of the integration of the NSA, CIA, military and police agencies extends far beyond what is taking place in Pakistan. The entire world is the subject both of the intelligence-gathering operations of the NSA and the drone strikes of the CIA.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA’s surveillance operations gather the communications of every telephone and Internet user on the planet, US citizens and non-citizens alike. This week has already seen new evidence emerge that the NSA is stealing address books—which often contain large amounts of personal information—from various web platforms and storing them in its archives. (See “ NSA ‘harvesting’ electronic address books and contact lists”)

The possibility of strikes being launched against American targets has been raised by top officials, and drones are already deployed on non-strike missions over the US. In a letter of March 4, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial,” saying that in certain cases such action would be “necessary and appropriate.”

If and when such operations are initiated, the state will have no shortage of data with which to target Americans, whose communications are subject to constant scrutiny by the surveillance apparatus.

NSA surveillance programs facilitate global drone war

 

By Thomas Gaist
18 October 2013

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published in the Washington Post Wednesday show that NSA surveillance operations play a key role in the global campaign of assassinations being waged by the Obama administration.

The Post’s report, “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program,” testifies to the integration of the surveillance apparatus exposed in recent months into US imperialism’s global military operations. Officials cited by the Post said that the NSA has deployed analysts to work along side Central Intelligence Agency personnel at the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at “every major US embassy or military base overseas.”

The report further documents the NSA’s systematic attempts to overcome encryption, including the extraction of PGP encryption keys from targets. The agency reportedly was able to capture 16 keys from a single electronic raid on a suspected Al Qaeda computer.

According to the report, the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations,” a cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering program, conducts surveillance of targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and throughout Africa. TAO runs programs such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR, which launch cyber attacks using “software implants” to grab sensitive data such as keystroke logs and audio files.

ArsTechnica reported in August that advanced software used by TAO enables operatives to tap directly into hardware such as “routers, switches and firewalls,” and that TAO’s activities are integrated into data systems such as XKeyscore.

Information gathered by the NSA has been used in particular in the course of the CIA’s drone war in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. As summarized by the Post, the NSA has “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan.” One US intelligence official told the Post, “NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA.” To date, at least 3,000 people have been killed as a result of US drone operations in Pakistan, including hundreds of civilians.

Both the NSA surveillance and the policy of drone war that it facilitates are criminal operations, carried out in violation of international law. The Obama administration asserts the right to kill anyone in the world without due process, including US citizens, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Among those killed have been US citizens including Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

A full accounting of the Pakistanis murdered by US drones may never be completed. However, a study published by Stanford University and New York University earlier this year showed that large sections of the population living in the FATA suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the buzzing of drones overhead and the never-ending barrage of ordnance raining down on the area.

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson wrote in March of this year, “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent, and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The Post described the leaked NSA documents as “self-congratulatory in tone” and “drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities.” According to Fox News, the Post withheld substantial information about the drone strikes “at the request of US intelligence officials.”

The Post report highlights the case of Hassan Ghul, who was killed as a direct result of intelligence acquired through electronic surveillance operations run by the NSA. After his capture in 2004, Ghul was held at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe until 2006, where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), including slapping, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

In 2006, Ghul was transferred to Pakistan, where he was released and rejoined Al Qaeda militants in Waziristan. Ghul worked to set up logistical networks for Al Qaeda after being freed, according to a Treasury Department document from 2011. No explanation has been offered by US or Pakistani authorities for Ghul’s release.

Ghul was then killed in 2012 by a drone strike in Mir Ali, after having been monitored for a year prior to his death by a secret NSA unit called the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC), which specializes in finding high priority targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Ghul’s location was discovered through analysis of an email sent to him by his wife. His death was never officially acknowledged by the US government, despite the fact that his interrogation supposedly provided intelligence about an Al Qaeda courier named al-Kuwaiti, which supposedly led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The scope of the integration of the NSA, CIA, military and police agencies extends far beyond what is taking place in Pakistan. The entire world is the subject both of the intelligence-gathering operations of the NSA and the drone strikes of the CIA.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA’s surveillance operations gather the communications of every telephone and Internet user on the planet, US citizens and non-citizens alike. This week has already seen new evidence emerge that the NSA is stealing address books—which often contain large amounts of personal information—from various web platforms and storing them in its archives. (See “ NSA ‘harvesting’ electronic address books and contact lists”)

The possibility of strikes being launched against American targets has been raised by top officials, and drones are already deployed on non-strike missions over the US. In a letter of March 4, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial,” saying that in certain cases such action would be “necessary and appropriate.”

If and when such operations are initiated, the state will have no shortage of data with which to target Americans, whose communications are subject to constant scrutiny by the surveillance apparatus.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

US Suspends More Military Aid to Egypt, Arousing Skepticism

WASHINGTON - The administration of President Barack Obama announced Wednesday it was freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Egyptian military...

US Suspends More Military Aid to Egypt, Arousing Skepticism

WASHINGTON - The administration of President Barack Obama announced Wednesday it was freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Egyptian military...

US Suspends More Military Aid to Egypt, Arousing Scepticism

The aftermath of clashes between police and anti-coup demonstrators during the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in on Aug. 14 in Cairo. (Credit: Amro...

Japan to pay $3.1bn to remove US troops from Okinawa, will host spy drones

Tokyo is to foot a $3.1 billion bill, which is part of the cost for relocating American troops from Okinawa. For the first time,...

America’s Police Are Looking More and More Like the Military

America's streets are looking more and more like a war zone. Last week, in a small county in upstate New York with a population...

The US raid on Libya and the fraud of the war on terror

8 October 2013 ...

UK launches FBI-style anti-crime agency

Britain™s new FBI-style anti-crime agency will start its work today with an almost half-a-billion-pound budget and mandate to deal with some 37,000 criminals. The body...

Cold War Redux: Washington Turbo-Militarizes China’s Backyard

While the Middle East teeters on the brink of another prolonged conflict that would engender some form of US involvement, the Obama's administration's shift...

The Global Crisis of Legitimacy and Liberation

Half a year into Obama's second term, it has become clear what has been done under his watch. He brought to the world massive...

Pointing the Finger: Terrorism, Dissent, and US Foreign Policy

Near the end of 1970, shortly after President Nixon circulated a plan for expanded spying, FBI field offices received word to “immediately institute an...

THE 9/11 READER. The September 11, 2001 Terror Attacks

CBS News footage of the Rawalpindi, Pakistan, hospital where bin Laden was allegedly treated the day before 9/11. The foregoing CBS report...

Senator John McCain, Foreign Relations “Adviser” to Al Qaeda Death Squads in Syria

While the mainstream media admonishes John McCain for playing a poker game on his cell phone during the Senate Council on Foreign Relations Hearings...

6 Corporations Making Money From U.S. Aid to the Brutal Egyptian Military

Most of the tanks, tear gas and bullets used to brutally clear the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo in mid-August were bought with American...

US violated Brazil's sovereignty: Minister

Brazil has criticized the United States for spying on Brazilian companies and individuals, saying the electronic surveillance is a violation of the South American...

UN Drone Investigation to Report in October

After a relatively quiet summer, the military use of drones is likely to hit the headlines again this autumn   Perhaps likely to garner most column inches...

Obama Chooses Ex-Intelligence Officials for “Panel of Experts” to Review Surveillance Programs

Reports surfacing Thursday indicated that appointments have been made to President Barack Obama’s promised “high-level group of outside experts,” which will assess the government’s...

Homeland Security Made in Israel

If there should happen to be an al-Qaeda attack in Calhoun County Alabama, Sheriff Larry Amerson will presumably know what to do. That is...

Latin America Condemns US Espionage at United Nations Security Council

Simon Bolivar: “The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” Throughout the day, on...

Obama Versus Snowden

Obama’s recent media counteroffensive against Edward Snowden is unquestionably a tribute to Edward Snowden, who so far has managed to secure an offshore sanctuary...

Encircling Empire: Obama’s Scramble for Africa

On a beach in Ghana, a discarded wrapper for “Obama Biscuits,” produced in Ghana to mark Obama’s visit in 2009. This report is for the...

The Origins of the Neoliberal War on the Poor

In November of 1994 two years of ramshackle government, breached pledges and the Clinton administration’s frequently manifested contempt for its traditional base, exacted their...

Rand Paul Takes Lead in GOP Chase for White House

Chris Christie doesn’t want to talk about the “nonsense” of his feud with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Buzzfeed reports that at the National Governors Association...

Rand Paul Takes Lead in GOP Chase for White House

Chris Christie doesn’t want to talk about the “nonsense” of his feud with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Buzzfeed reports that at the National Governors Association...

UC’s Alarming Choice

Last week, the UC Regents confirmed Janet Napolitano’s nomination as the next president of the University of California (UC) system. This selection is historic: She...

The Fact that Mass Surveillance Doesn’t Keep Us Safe Goes Mainstream

Washington’s BlogJuly 9, 2013 The fact that mass spying on Americans isn’t necessary to keep us...

7/7 Mock Terror Drill: What Relationship to the Real Time Terror Attacks?

July 7, 2005, eight years ago, the London 7/7 bombings. Was there advanced knowledge of the attacks? Was it a conspiracy? The following text...

American police now “Israeli-DHS trained,” precursor to dictatorship

presstv.irJuly 4, 2013 As part of this training, there is an increased move to use of...

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan more than eleven years ago. Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism. The war on Afghanistan...

The Government’s Mass Spying Is An Affront To Democratic Values

Top Terrorism Experts Say that Mass Spying Doesn’t Work to Prevent Terrorism Never mind the fact that — if the government’s spying was really only...

The Government’s Mass Spying Is An Affront To Democratic Values. Let’s Also Not Pretend...

Washington’s BlogJune 29, 2013 Never mind the fact that — if the government’s spying was really...

Indefinite Detention is Patently Unconstitutional

Ronald Martin tenthamendmentcenter.com June 28, 2013 In January 2012, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Christopher Hedges filed a federal lawsuit against President Obama, challenging detention...

UK spy agencies get rise despite cuts

Spy agencies are the biggest winners of the British governmentâ„¢s new multi-billion-pound austerity plans, getting a higher-than-inflation annual increase to their combined £1.9 billion...

The Stunning Hypocrisy of the U.S. Government

The Government’s Hypocrisy Is the Core Problem Congress has exempted itself from the prohibition against trading on inside information … the law that got Martha...

The Imperial Agenda in Syria. GRTV Feature Interview with Michel Chossudovsky

The aggressor nations in the war on Syria are now talking about “humanitarian aid” to support the Al Qaeda rebels they themselves sent into...

“Conspiracy of Secrecy”: System Failure, Cyber Threats and Corporate Denial

“Computer commands can derail a train or cause a gas pipeline to burst,” warned former Bush administration counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke in Cyber War,...

Fighting Al Qaeda by Supporting Al Qaeda in Syria: The Obama Administration is a...

A major transition in US counter-terrorism doctrine is unfolding. While Barack Obama, following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, remains firmly committed to waging...

The U.S. Military and the Unraveling of Africa

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_us_military_and_the_unraveling_of_africa_20130619/ Posted on Jun 19, 2013 ...

The National Security Industrial Complex and NSA Spying: The Revolving Doors Between State Agencies...

When Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton — a military contractor based in McLean, Virginia - blew the whistle on the extent of U.S. global electronic...

The Terror Diaspora: The U.S. Military and Obama’s Scramble for Africa

The Gulf of Guinea. He said it without a hint of irony or embarrassment. This was one of U.S. Africa Command’s big success stories....

Snowden, Hong Kong Extradition, and a Good Old Fashioned Ratfucking

Further my speculation that Edward Snowden, as a CIA guy, may have chosen Hong Kong because the PRC would be less eager than most...

The Inauguration of Police State USA. Towards a Democratic Dictatorship?

Author’s Note The following article first published in January of 2012 focuses on an important piece of legislation (National Defense Authorization Act “NDAA (HR 1540)....

Twenty TRILLION Phone Calls: “They’ve Been Collecting Data About ALL Domestic Calls Since October...

Mac SlavoSHTFPlan.comJune 11, 2013 “The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in...

Twenty TRILLION Phone Calls: “They’ve Been Collecting Data About ALL Domestic Calls Since October...

In 2011, when we noted that Everything You Do Is Monitored, we weren’t embellishing or fear mongering.

UK Home Secretary: Expanded Snooping Powers “Essential” Following Woolwich Attack

Argues that “Hate speech” definition threshold should be set much lowerSteve WatsonInfowars.comMay 27,...

UK Home Secretary proposes further snooping powers in light of Woolwich attack

UK Home Secretary Theresa May said on Sunday that it is “essential” to grant intelligence agencies the capacity to access communications data, despite overwhelming...

Obama’s Legacy

Shahid Buttar firedoglake.comMay 25, 2013 President Obama’s speech, presenting his vision of a...

Both the Mainstream Media and the Gatekeeper “Alternative” Media Are Pro-War

Why There Is So Much Pro-War Reporting There are five reasons that the mainstream media and the largest alternative media websites are both pro-war. 1. Self-Censorship...

Al Qaeda and the “War on Terrorism”

The following text was first published in Italian in: Giuletto Chiesa (Editor), Zero, Perché la versione ufficiale sull’ 11/9 è un Falso , Piemme,...

Are Attorney General Holder’s Statements on Banks and Drones Connected? How Far Will the...

State-sponsored assassination: Attorney General Eric Holder Justifies Killing Americans On Foreign Soil

The Attorney General of the United States made the following 2 statements within 48 hours:

These statements may – at first glance – seem unconnected.  And the mainstream media is treating them as separate.

True, the government is hell-bent on keeping the giant banks afloat, even though virtually all independent economists, financial experts and bankers are calling for them to be broken up, and Americans overwhelmingly want the government to get tougher on prosecuting Wall Street fraud.

But there might be more to it then than that … and Holder’s statements may be intimately connected.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and other government agencies worked hand-in-hand with the big banks to violently crack down on the Occupy protests.

And what was Occupy protesting?  One of the core complaints of the Occupy protesters was that there are two systems of justice: the little guy gets thrown in jail for the smallest infraction, while banksters escape prosecution for their criminal fraud.  (Occupy also protested the fact that that the big banks got bailed out, while the rest of us got sold out.  And see this.)

In other words, it is exactly the Department of Justice’s policy of not prosecuting big bank crimes which was one of Occupy’s core complaints … and – in response – the federal government sent in the goons to crack heads and trash the free speech rights of the protesters.

This is not an isolated incident.

The big banks literally own the politicians.

For many years, the government has used anti-terror laws mainly to crush political dissent and to help the too big to fail businesses.

Asking questions about Wall Street shenanigans, speaking out against government policies, and protesting anything are all considered grounds for being labeled a “potential terrorist” by the government.  Whistleblowers are also being treated as terrorists.

Indeed, the government agency with the power to determine who gets assassinated is the same agency that is at the center of the “ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.”

If this sounds like breathless fearmongering, please remember that the U.S. military now considers the American homeland to be a “battle zone” (and see this).

And the banking system is considered “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland security.

Another Connection Between Big Banks and Drones

There is another connection between big banks and drones.

The big banks have a direct role in encouraging and financing war. And see this.

And Ron Paul noted in 2007:

Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank have a cozy, unspoken arrangement that makes war easier to finance. Congress has an insatiable appetite for new spending, but raising taxes is politically unpopular. The Federal Reserve, however, is happy to accommodate deficit spending by creating new money through the Treasury Department. In exchange, Congress leaves the Fed alone to operate free of pesky oversight and free of political scrutiny.

The big banks own the Federal Reserve.

Indeed, some say that all wars are really bankster wars.

Is Copyright Infringement Now Seen As Terrorism? Government Uses Law As a Sword Against...

policestate

We reported last year:

The government treats copyright infringers as terrorists, and swat teams have been deployed against them. See thisthisthis and this.

As the executive director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School notes:

This administration … publishes a newsletter about its efforts with language that compares copyright infringement to terrorism.

The American government is using copyright laws to crack down on political dissent just like China and Russia.

We noted last month that the “cyber-security” laws have very little to do with security.

The Verge reported last month:

In the State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama announced a sweepingexecutive order implementing new national cybersecurity measures, opening the door for intelligence agencies to share more information about suspected “cyber threats” with private companies that oversee the nation’s “critical infrastructure.” The order is voluntary, giving companies the choice of whether or not they want to receive the information, and takes effect in four months, by June 12.

***

“Cyber threats cover a wide range of malicious activity that can occur through cyberspace,” wrote Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, in an email to The Verge. “Such threats include web site defacement, espionage,theft of intellectual property, denial of service attacks, and destructive malware.”

***

“The EO [executive order] relies on the definition of critical infrastructure found in the Homeland Security Act of 2002,” Hayden wrote.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (PDF), passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, was what created the Department of Homeland Security. At that time, the US was still reeling from the attacks and Congress sought to rapidly bolster the nation’s defenses, including “critical infrastructure” as part of its definition of “terrorism.” As the act states: “The term ‘terrorism’ means any activity that involves an act that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources…”

But again, that act doesn’t exactly spell out which infrastructure is considered “critical,” instead pointing to the definition as outlined in a 2001 bill, also passed in response to September 11, which reads:

“The term “critical infrastructure” means systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”

This is the same exact definition that was originally provided in the president’s cybersecurity order as originally published on Tuesday, meaning that the White House appears to be relying to some degree on circular reasoning when it comes to that definition. Some in Washington, including the right-leaning think tank The Heritage Foundation, are worried that the definition is too broad and “could be understood to include systems normally considered outside the cybersecurity conversation, such as agriculture.”

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security, which is one of the agencies that will be sharing information on cyber threats thanks to the order, includes 18 different industriesin its own label of “critical infrastructure,” from agriculture to banking to national monuments. There’s an argument to be made that including such a broad and diverse swath of industries under the blanket term “critical” is reasonable given the overall increasing dependence of virtually all businesses on the internet for core functions. But even in that case, its unclear how casting such a wide net would be helpful in defending against cyber threats, especially as there is a limited pool of those with the expertise and ability to do so.

It’s not just intellectual property.  The government is widely using anti-terror laws to help giant businesses … and to crush those who speak out against their abusive practices, labeling anyone who speaks out as a potential bad guy.

Tens Years Later, Eyes Still Wide Shut on the Iraq War

Ten years ago, as President George W. Bush and his administration were putting the finishing touches on their unprovoked invasion of Iraq, the mainstream U.S. news media had long since capitulated, accepting the conventional wisdom that nothing could – or should – stop the march to war.Hussein Kamel, former Iraqi minister of military industry, was killed after returning to Iraq, but not before explaining in great detail to US and British intelligence that Iraq had, in fact, destroyed its WMD stockpiles.

The neocon conquest of the major U.S. news outlets – the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the national TV news – was so total that the Bush administration could reliably count on them as eager co-conspirators in the Iraq adventure rather than diligent watchdogs for the American people.

By now a decade ago, the New York Times had published Judy Miller’s infamous “mushroom cloud” article about Iraq’s aluminum tubes, the Washington Post’s op-ed page had lined up in lock-step to hail Colin Powell’s misleading United Nations speech, MSNBC had dumped Phil Donahue after he allowed on a few anti-war voices, and CNN had assembled a chorus of pro-war ex-military officers as “analysts.”

Despite massive worldwide protests against the impending invasion, the U.S. news media only grudgingly covered the spectacle of millions of people in the streets in dozens of cities. The coverage mostly had a tone of bemusement about how deluded such uninformed folks could be.

The U.S. news media’s consensus was so overwhelming that it may have freed up a few lesser outlets to publish some undeniable facts, which then could be safely dismissed and ignored.

Such was the case when Newsweek correspondent John Barry was allowed to publish the leaked contents of an interrogation of a senior Iraqi official who inconveniently disclosed that Iraq had destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons years earlier.

Barry, usually a reliable voice for Washington’s conventional wisdom, may have struggled over what to do with the leaked document, but he ultimately wrote this truthful lede:

“Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.  Kamel … had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.”

In a classic understatement of about his own report – as the White House was on the verge of unleashing the dogs of war in pursuit of Iraq’s alleged WMD – Barry commented, “The defector’s tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.”

Barry explained that Kamel had been interrogated in separate sessions by the CIA, British intelligence, and a trio from the U.N. inspection team; that Newsweek had been able to verify the authenticity of the U.N. document containing the text of Kamel’s debriefing; and that Kamel had “told the same story to the CIA and the British.” Barry added that “The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.”

Barry’s story was, of course, completely accurate. According to page 13 of the transcript of the debriefing by U.S. and U.N. officials, Hussein Kamel, one of Saddam Hussein’s sons-in-law, said bluntly:  “All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed.”

The story of Kamel’s admission was published in the March 3, 2003, issue of Newsweek after appearing on the magazine’s Web site on Feb. 24.

No WMD in Iraq?

By then, of course, the Newsweek story really didn’t matter. The media “hot shots” had already shifted from covering the excuses for war to preparing for the exciting duty as embedded “war correspondents.”

No one wanted to risk being left out of those career-building moments of racing across the Iraqi desert in a Humvee, with your cameraman filming you in green-tinted night-vision video, your body bulked up by body armor, your camouflage outfit matching what the real troops were wearing, and perhaps your hair blowing in the wind.

Back at corporate headquarters, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and other cable-news anchors couldn’t wait for the start of “shock and awe.” The pyrotechnics would surely mean a big bump in ratings. Over at Fox News and MSNBC, which was then trying to out-Fox Fox from the Right, producers were planning for video montages honoring “the Troops” as super-hero liberators of Iraq.

So there was not much buzz about the Newsweek scoop. The rest of the mainstream media only went through the motions of checking out this strange information about Iraq having no WMD. Reporters called the CIA for clarification.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow responded by fishing out half of the descriptors from his “Debunking Adjectives File” at CIA’s Office of Public Affairs. He warned that the report was “incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.”

Would the CIA ever tell a lie? Puleeze! And so the mainstream media said, in effect, “Gosh. Thanks for letting us know. Otherwise, we might have run a story on it.”

Nor were mainstream media outlets at all interested in coming back to the story two days later, when the complete copy of the Kamel transcript, in the form of an internal U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency document stamped “sensitive,” was made public by Cambridge University analyst Glen Rangwala.

Rangwala had already revealed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pre-war “intelligence dossier” on Iraq was largely plagiarized from a student thesis.

The conventional wisdom in Official Washington was: Why should anyone place his or her precious career between the innocents who would die in war and the war juggernaut of Bush and his neocon advisers? After all, what good would it do? The war was going to happen anyway and you would just get run over.

And what would happen if the U.S. military did discover some cache of WMD somewhere in Iraq? You’d be forever known as that Saddam Hussein apologist who questioned the wisdom of the Great War President.

So the war juggernaut rolled on. Wolf Blitzer expressed some disappointment that the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad wasn’t more spectacular. NBC’s Tom Brokaw sat among a panel of ex-military officers and blurted out that “in a few days, we’re going to own that country.” MSNBC and Fox News rushed out Madison Avenue-style tributes to “the Troops” complete with stirring sound tracks and images of thankful Iraqis. Disturbing stories and images of overflowing hospitals and innocent Iraqis being dismembered and incinerated by U.S. bombs were played down.

However, the Bush administration found none of the promised stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, nor any evidence of an active nuclear program. After eight years of a bloody war and occupation, the big losers were the hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqis; the nearly 4,500 dead U.S. soldiers and more than 30,000 wounded; and the U.S. taxpayers who got stuck with a bill of around $1 trillion.

More Harlowtry

Things worked out a lot better for people like CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. He found out that working for CIA Director George Tenet could be quite lucrative, even after they both left the CIA. Harlow convinced Tenet, who resigned in 2004, that an exculpatory memoir could polish up Tenet’s tarnished reputation and make money.

Harlow also volunteered to help, since he sensed the boss would need a scribe and since the advance was sizable. Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, co-written with Harlow, was released in April 2007. By then, however, even some in the mainstream media were able to see the two for the charlatans they were.

Not even Harlow’s hired pen could disguise this lame attempt at self-justification. Pro that he is, Harlow simply could not manage to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of Tenet’s career. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How George Tenet Lied.”]

At the Center of the Storm amounted to an unintentional self-indictment of Tenet for the crimes with which Socrates was charged: making the worse cause appear the better, and corrupting the youth. At the time, I found myself thinking that Tenet wished he had opted to just fade away, as old soldiers and spies used to do.

And I would have been right, I suppose – except for the money. A $4 million advance was nothing at which to sniff, even if Tenet had to share it with Harlow.

Despite what should have been a negative credibility rating, Harlow remained a trusted figure for many old news media friends. He was sent into the breach once more in August 2011 to help Tenet fend off explosive charges from former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke that Tenet had withheld information from him that could have thwarted the attacks of 9/11. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Information?”]

In an interview aired on a local PBS affiliate in Colorado, Clarke directly accused Tenet and two other senior CIA officials, Cofer Black and Richard Blee, of sitting on information about two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 — al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar.

The two had entered the United States more than a year before the 9/11 attacks, and CIA knew it. After 9/11, the agency covered up its failure by keeping relevant information away from Congress and the 9/11 Commission, Clarke said.

Withholding intelligence on two of the 9/11 hijackers would have been particularly unconscionable — the epitome of malfeasance, not just misfeasance. That’s why Richard Clarke’s conclusion that he should have received information from CIA about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar “unless somebody intervened to stop the normal automatic distribution” amounts, in my view, to a criminal charge, given the eventual role of the two in hijacking of AA-77, the plane that struck the Pentagon.

Tenet has denied that the information on the two hijackers was “intentionally withheld” from Clarke, and he enlisted the other two former CIA operatives, Cofer Black (more recently a senior official of Blackwater) and Richard Blee (an even more shadowy figure), to concur in saying, Not us; we didn’t withhold.

Whom to believe? To me, it’s a no-brainer. One would have to have been born yesterday to regard the “George is right” testimony from Black and Blee as corroborative.

Harlow to the Rescue

To dirty up Clarke a bit more, Bill Harlow emerged to empty the remaining half of the descriptors from his old “Debunking Adjectives File.” According to Harlow, Clarke’s charges were “reckless and profoundly wrong … baseless … belied by the record … unworthy of serious consideration.”

And so, naturally, the mainstream media dropped this extraordinary story involving the former White House counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, accusing the former CIA head, George Tenet, with suppressing information that could well have prevented 9/11.

Plus, by all indications, Harlow is still able to work his fraudulent magic on the Fawning Corporate Media. If Harlow says it’s not true … and hurls a bunch of pejorative adjectives to discredit a very serious charge … well, I guess we’ll have to leave it there, as the mainstream media is so fond of saying.

No matter Clarke’s well-deserved reputation for honesty and professionalism — and Tenet’s and Harlow’s reputations for the opposite.

The versatile Bill Harlow came back again this past January to help Jose Rodriguez, the CIA operations chief who oversaw waterboarding and other torture and then destroyed the videotaped evidence, argue his case in the ever-hospitable, neocon-dominated Washington Post.

Their argument this time was that “enhanced interrogation” – or what the rest of us would call “torture” – helped locate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee has refuted that claim.

Never mind. The Washington Post Sunday Outlook section on Jan. 6, 2013, ran a long article titled, “Sorry, Hollywood. What we did wasn’t torture.” The Post noted that the Rodriguez piece was “written with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow,” but offered readers no help in gauging Harlow’s checkered credibility. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Excusing Torture Again.”]

Rodriguez and Harlow disdained the word “torture,” but argued, in the context of the “hunt-for-bin-Laden” movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” that the rough-them-up tactics really helped. The two resorted to the George W. Bush-era word game that waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other calculated pain inflicted on detainees in the CIA’s custody weren’t really “torture.”

A decade after so many falsehoods led the United States into the disastrous Iraq War, it is curious indeed that the mainstream U.S. news media still affords some of the principal liars so much respect and “credibility.”

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

#SOTU – The Summary: Minimum Wage, Maximum Genomes, Macs, And Moar Cyber-Security

5% fewer words, slightly shorter than last year but just as hope-full. From a hike (and inflation-indexed) in the minimum wage to a 140x multiplier of genome sciences investment (now that is Keynesian awesomeness); from extending homeownership (and refinancing plans) even more to energy independence; from Apple, Ford, and CAT's US Manufacturing to Bridge-Building and infrastructure spending; and from Trans-Pacific and -Atlantic Trade to cyber-security; it's all gonna be great - because as President Obama reminded us at the start... "Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding," and this won't add a dime to the deficit... oh and that Student loan bubble - no worries, there's a college scorecard so now you know where you can get the biggest bang for your credit-based buck. Summing it all up:

  • Guns 9 : 3 Freedom
  • Jobs 31 : 17 Tax
  • Congress 17 : 40 Work
  • Recovery 2 : 0 Unicorns
  • Spending 3 : 2 Cutting

Fed heads chimed in early:

  • *PLOSSER: `BRIGHTER LINE' NEEDED BETWEEN FISCAL, MONETARY POLICY
  • *PLOSSER EXPECTS FED TO REDUCE BOND BUYING BY END OF THIS YEAR

That won't help fund all of this wonderfulness...

But we started on an awkward note with Reince Priebus:

and David Axelrod...

Oh well...

The word cloud: Jobs - Years - America (and... people education like)

Full Speech:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

     Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

     Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

     Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

     But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

     It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

     It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

     It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

     The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

     Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

     Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

     Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

     In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

     Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

     That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

     But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

     On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

     To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

     Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

     I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

     Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

     A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

     Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.

     After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

     There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

     If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

     After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

     But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

     The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

     Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

     In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

     Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

     America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

     Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.

     Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

     But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

     These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

     Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

     Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

     Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

     We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

     Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

     Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

     To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

     Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

     Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

     Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

     And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

     In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

     But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

     We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

      Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

     Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

     Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

     Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

     Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

     Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

     Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

     As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

     Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

     Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

     America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

     That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

     Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

     We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

     Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

     In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

     All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

     But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.

     Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

     It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

     Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

     One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

     Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

     Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

     The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

     The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

     The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

     Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.      We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

     We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

     We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

     We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

     When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”

     That’s just the way we’re made.

      We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

     We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.

     Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Your rating: None Average: 1.5 (8 votes)

#SOTU – The Summary: Minimum Wage, Maximum Genomes, Macs, And Moar Cyber-Security

5% fewer words, slightly shorter than last year but just as hope-full. From a hike (and inflation-indexed) in the minimum wage to a 140x multiplier of genome sciences investment (now that is Keynesian awesomeness); from extending homeownership (and refinancing plans) even more to energy independence; from Apple, Ford, and CAT's US Manufacturing to Bridge-Building and infrastructure spending; and from Trans-Pacific and -Atlantic Trade to cyber-security; it's all gonna be great - because as President Obama reminded us at the start... "Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding," and this won't add a dime to the deficit... oh and that Student loan bubble - no worries, there's a college scorecard so now you know where you can get the biggest bang for your credit-based buck. Summing it all up:

  • Guns 9 : 3 Freedom
  • Jobs 31 : 17 Tax
  • Congress 17 : 40 Work
  • Recovery 2 : 0 Unicorns
  • Spending 3 : 2 Cutting

Fed heads chimed in early:

  • *PLOSSER: `BRIGHTER LINE' NEEDED BETWEEN FISCAL, MONETARY POLICY
  • *PLOSSER EXPECTS FED TO REDUCE BOND BUYING BY END OF THIS YEAR

That won't help fund all of this wonderfulness...

But we started on an awkward note with Reince Priebus:

and David Axelrod...

Oh well...

The word cloud: Jobs - Years - America (and... people education like)

Full Speech:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

     Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

     Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

     Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

     But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

     It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

     It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

     It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

     The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

     Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

     Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

     Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

     In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

     Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

     That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

     But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

     On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

     To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

     Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

     I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

     Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

     A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

     Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.

     After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

     There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

     If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

     After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

     But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

     The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

     Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

     In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

     Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

     America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

     Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.

     Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

     But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

     These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

     Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

     Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

     Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

     We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

     Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

     Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

     To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

     Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

     Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

     Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

     And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

     In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

     But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

     We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

      Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

     Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

     Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

     Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

     Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

     Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

     Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

     As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

     Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

     Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

     America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

     That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

     Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

     We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

     Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

     In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

     All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

     But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.

     Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

     It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

     Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

     One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

     Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

     Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

     The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

     The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

     The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

     Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.      We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

     We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

     We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

     We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

     When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”

     That’s just the way we’re made.

      We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

     We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.

     Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Your rating: None Average: 1.5 (8 votes)

Live streaming The State of the Union: Full Transcript Open Thread

So let us know what you think.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances. Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future. Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do. Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck. To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally. And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. Now let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned. And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy. Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Targeted Killings: The White Paper Allows the Government to Kill a US Citizen who...

By Dennis Bernstein

B:  We continue our discussion of the revelations around a memo coming out of the Justice Department that the administration plans to keep up these assassinations and expand the program.  Joining us to take a legal look at this is Marjorie Cohn, Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former President of the National Lawyers Guild.  She is also the editor of “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.”  Welcome back to Flashpoints, Marjorie.  You say the White Paper runs afoul of international and US law.  Please explain.

MC:  The White Paper allows the government to kill a US citizen who is not on the battlefield, if some high government official who is supposedly informed about the situation thinks that the target is a senior Al Queda leader who poses an imminent threat of a violent attack against the United States.  So how do they define “imminence”? Well, it doesn’t require any clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.  So it completely dilutes this whole idea of imminent threat.  Under well-established principles of international law and the UN Charter, one country can use military force against another only in self-defense.  But under the Caroline case, which is the gold standard here, the “necessity for self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”

That means we are going to be attacked right away and we can use force.  But the very nebulous test that the White Paper lays out even allows the targeted killing of somebody who is considered to be a “continuing” threat, whatever that means.  The most disturbing part of it says that US citizens can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”  So we have a global battlefield, where if there is someone, anywhere, who might be associated with Al Qaeda, according to a high government official, then Obama can authorize (it’s not even clear Obama himself has to authorize these targeted killings, these drone attacks) on Terror Tuesday (thanks to the New York Times expose several months ago) who he is going to kill after consulting with John Brennan.  John Brennan, of course, is his counter-terrorism guru who is up for confirmation to be CIA Director.  Very incestuous.  John Brennan has said that targeted killings constitute lawful self-defense.

One of the most disturbing things here is the amassing of executive power with no review by the courts, no checks and balances.  So the courts will have no opportunity to interpret what “imminence” means, or what “continuing” threat means.

The White Paper cites John Yoo, who claims that courts have no role to play in what the President does in this so-called War on Terror where the whole world is a battlefield.  I say so-called War on Terror because terrorism is a tactic.  It’s not an enemy.  You don’t declare war on a tactic.  And the White Paper refers Yoo’s statement that judicial review constitutes “judicial encroachment” on the judgments by the President and his National Security advisors as to when and how to use force.

The White Paper cites Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which says the President has the authority to hold US citizens caught on the battlefield in Afghanistan as enemy combatants.  But in Hamdi, the Supreme Court stated that a US citizen who is being detained as an enemy combatant is entitled to due process.  Due process means an arrest and a fair trial.  It doesn’t mean just taking him out with a drone.  Also, there’s another interesting passage in this White Paper.  It says “judicial enforcement [a court reviewing these kill orders of the executive] of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisors as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”

Inherently predictive.  Does that mean that the court can’t review decisions made with a crystal ball because it’s too mushy?  I don’t know.  Certainly courts are competent to make emergency decisions under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  The FISA Court meets in secret and authorizes wiretaps requested by the executive branch.  Courts can do this.  Courts can act in emergencies to review and check and balance what the executive is doing.  That’s what our Constitution is all about.

DB: Congress is looking for some original documents about what’s going on here.  The White Paper is sort of a restatement of National Security documents that we probably haven’t been able to see yet. What about the Geneva Conventions?  It sort of throws that in the garbage.

MC:  Well, it does because the Geneva Conventions define willful killing as a grave breach.  And grave breaches are punishable as war crimes.  So this also violates the Geneva Conventions.  Although the White Paper says that they are going to follow the well-established principle of proportionality – proportionality means that an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage – I don’t see how they can actually put that into practice because the force is going to be excessive.  When you see how they are using drones, they are taking out convoys, and they are killing civilians, large numbers of civilians.

There’s another principle of international law called distinction, which requires that the attack be directed only at legitimate military targets.  We know from the New York Times expose that the kill list that Brennan brings to Obama to decide who he is going to take out without a trial – basically execute – can be used even if they don’t have a name, or if they are present in an area where there are suspicious “patterns of behavior.”  These are known as signature strikes.

That means that bombs are dropped on unidentified people who are in an area where suspicious activity is taking place.  That goes even beyond targeted killings.  Targeted killings are considered to be illegal.  The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns, expressed grave concerns about these targeted killings, saying that they may constitute war crimes.  He called on the Obama administration to explain how its drone strikes comport with international law and to specify the bases for the decisions to kill rather than capture particular individuals.

The White Paper says that one of the requirements before they can take someone out is that capture is “infeasible.”  As you go on and read this memo, infeasible begins to look like inconvenient.  We have these very mushy terms, with no clear standards that comply with international law.  Yet there is no oversight by any court, and Congress has no role either.  So we don’t have checks and balances.  Even the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed a few days after 9/11 doesn’t authorize this.  The AUMF allows the President to use force against groups and countries that had supported the 9/11 attacks.  But when the Bush administration asked Congress for open-ended military authority “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States,”  Congress specifically rejected that open-ended military authority.  Congress has not authorized this, and it’s not clear whether Congress would authorize it.  There are several congresspersons who are trying to get a hold of the actual documents that you have referred to, beyond this White Paper, which is the tip of the iceberg.

DB:  That includes Ron Wyden who is on the Intelligence Committee and can’t get a hold of this.  When one looks at this Obama policy and compares it to Bush, essentially Obama has chosen well, we’ll do a little less torture, or skip the torture, and we’ll just kill them.

MC: Obama has expanded these drone attacks far beyond what the Bush administration was doing.  There are many thorny issues, such as indefinite detention, how detainees are treated, and under what circumstances they can be released.  The Obama administration evidently feels that it’s cleaner and easier just to kill them.  Then you don’t have to worry about bad publicity from housing them at Guantanamo, not giving them a fair trial, holding them indefinitely.  This goes beyond the torture policy.  Now I don’t want to say that killing with drones is worse than the illegal and outrageous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that  the Bush administration began, in which thousands and thousands and thousands of people have been killed or seriously maimed.  So I wouldn’t say that Obama is worse than Bush.  But certainly Obama is following in the tradition of the Bush administration and John Yoo’s expansive view of executive power where whatever the President does is unreviewable.

DB:  I would say they continue the process of destroying the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the necessary checks and balances that restrain war, that the people depend on.  We are out of time.  Marjorie, thanks for being with us on Flashpoints.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor of human rights at Thomas Jefferson School and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her most recent book is “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.” See www.marjoriecohn.com.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.  You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. He can be contacted at [email protected].

“The War is Worth Waging”: Afghanistan’s Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

"The War is Worth Waging": Afghanistan's Vast Reserves of Minerals and Natural Gas

US and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan more than eleven years ago. 

Afghanistan is defined as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The war on Afghanistan continues to be heralded as a war of retribution in response to the 9/11 attacks. 

This article, first published in June 2010, points to the “real economic reasons”  why US-NATO forces invaded Afghanistan eleven years ago. 

The legal argument used by Washington and NATO to invade and occupy Afghanistan under “the doctrine of collective security” was that the September 11 2001 attacks constituted an undeclared “armed attack” “from abroad” by an unnamed foreign power.

Michel Chossudovsky,  February 5, 2013

*      *      *

The 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan has been presented to World public opinion as a “Just War”, a war directed against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, a war to eliminate “Islamic terrorism” and instate Western style democracy.

The economic dimensions of  the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) are rarely mentioned. The post 9/11 “counter-terrorism campaign” has served to obfuscate the real objectives of the US-NATO war.

The war on Afghanistan is part of a profit driven agenda: a war of economic conquest and plunder,  ”a resource war”.

While Afghanistan is acknowledged as a strategic hub in Central Asia, bordering on the former Soviet Union, China and Iran, at the crossroads of pipeline routes and major oil and gas reserves, its huge mineral wealth as well as its untapped natural gas reserves have remained, until June 2010, totally unknown to the American public.

According to a joint report by the Pentagon, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and USAID, Afghanistan is now said to possess “previously unknown” and untapped mineral reserves, estimated authoritatively to be of the order of one trillion dollars (New York Times, U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, See also BBC, 14 June 2010).

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said… “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines. (New York Times, op. cit.)

Afghanistan could become, according to The New York Times “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”. “Lithium is an increasingly vital resource, used in batteries for everything from mobile phones to laptops and key to the future of the electric car.” At present Chile, Australia, China and Argentina are the main suppliers of lithium to the world market. Bolivia and Chile are the countries with the largest known reserves of lithium. “The Pentagon has been conducting ground surveys in western Afghanistan. “Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large as those of Bolivia” (U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NYTimes.com, June 14, 2010, see also Lithium – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

“Previously Unknown Deposits” of Minerals in Afghanistan

The Pentagon’s near one trillion dollar “estimate” of previously “unknown deposits” is a useful smokescreen. The Pentagon one trillion dollar figure is more a trumped up number rather than an estimate:  “We took a look at what we knew to be there, and asked what would it be worth now in terms of today’s dollars. The trillion dollar figure seemed to be newsworthy.” (The Sunday Times, London, June 15 2010, emphasis added)

Moreover, the results of a US Geological Survey study (quoted in the Pentagon memo) on Afghanistan’s mineral wealth were revealed three years back, at a 2007 Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce. The matter of Afghanistan’s mineral riches, however, was not considered newsworthy at the time.

The US Administration’s acknowledgment that it first took cognizance of Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth  following the release of the USGS 2007 report is an obvious red herring. Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and energy resources (including natural gas) were known to both America’s business elites and the US government prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1988).

Geological surveys conducted by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1980s confirm the existence of  vast reserves of copper (among the largest in Eurasia), iron, high grade chrome ore, uranium, beryl, barite, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, lithium, tantalum, emeralds, gold and silver.(Afghanistan, Mining Annual Review, The Mining Journal,  June, 1984). These surveys suggest that the actual value of these reserves could indeed be substantially larger than the one trillion dollars “estimate” intimated by the Pentagon-USCG-USAID study.

More recently, in a 2002 report, the Kremlin confirmed what was already known: “It’s no secret that Afghanistan possesses rich reserves, in particular of copper at the Aynak deposit, iron ore in Khojagek, uranium, polymetalic ore, oil and gas,” (RIA Novosti, January 6, 2002):

“Afghanistan has never been anyone’s colony – no foreigner had ever “dug” here before the 1950s. The Hindu Kush mountains, stretching, together with their foothills, over a vast area in Afghanistan, are where the minerals lie. Over the past 40 years, several dozen deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan, and most of these discoveries were sensational. They were kept secret, however, but even so certain facts have recently become known.

It turns out that Afghanistan possesses reserves of nonferrous and ferrous metals and precious stones, and, if exploited, they would possibly be able to cover even the earnings from the drug industry. The copper deposit in Aynak in the southern Afghan Helmand Province is said to be the largest in the Eurasian continent, and its location (40 km from Kabul) makes it cheap to develop. The iron ore deposit at Hajigak in the central Bamian Province yields ore of an extraordinarily high quality, the reserves of which are estimated to be 500m tonnes. A coal deposit has also been discovered not far from there.

Afghanistan is spoken of as a transit country for oil and gas. However, only a very few people know that Soviet specialists discovered huge gas reserves there in the 1960s and built the first gas pipeline in the country to supply gas to Uzbekistan. At that time, the Soviet Union used to receive 2.5 bn cubic metres of Afghan gas annually. During the same period, large deposits of gold, fluorite, barytes and marble onyxes that have a very rare pattern were found.

However, the pegmatite fields discovered to the east of Kabul are a real sensation. Rubies, beryllium, emeralds and kunzites and hiddenites that cannot be found anywhere else – the deposits of these precious stones stretch for hundreds of kilometres. Also, the rocks containing the rare metals beryllium, thorium, lithium and tantalum are of strategic importance (they are used in air and spacecraft construction).

The war is worth waging. … (Olga Borisova, “Afghanistan – the Emerald Country”, Karavan, Almaty, original Russian, translated by BBC News Services, Apr 26, 2002. p. 10, emphasis added.)

While public opinion was fed images of a war torn resourceless developing country, the realities are otherwise: Afghanstan is a rich country as confirmed by Soviet era geological surveys.

The issue of “previously unknown deposits” sustains a falsehood. It excludes Afghanstan’s vast mineral wealth as a justifiable casus belli. It says that the Pentagon only recently became aware that Afghanistan was among the World’s most wealthy mineral economies, comparable to The Democratic Republic of the Congo or former Zaire of the Mobutu era. The Soviet geopolitical reports were known. During the Cold War, all this information was known in minute detail:

… Extensive Soviet exploration produced superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits … The Soviet Union subsequently committed more than $650 million for resource exploration and development in Afghanistan, with proposed projects including an oil refinery capable of producing a half-million tons per annum, as well as a smelting complex for the Ainak deposit that was to have produced 1.5 million tons of copper per year. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal a subsequent World Bank analysis projected that the Ainak copper production alone could eventually capture as much as 2 percent of the annual world market. The country is also blessed with massive coal deposits, one of which, the Hajigak iron deposit, in the Hindu Kush mountain range west of Kabul, is assessed as one of the largest high-grade deposits in the world. (John C. K. Daly,  Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, UPI Energy, October 24, 2008, emphasis added)

Afghanistan’s Natural Gas

Afghanistan is a land bridge. The 2001 U.S. led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been analysed by critics of US foreign policy as a means to securing control  over the strategic trans-Afghan transport corridor which links the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea.

Several trans-Afghan oil and gas pipeline projects have been contemplated including the planned $8.0 billion TAPI pipeline project (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) of 1900 km., which would transport Turkmen natural gas across Afghanistan in what is described as a “crucial transit corridor”. (See Gary Olson, Afghanistan has never been the ‘good and necessary’ war; it’s about control of oil, The Morning Call, October 1, 2009). Military escalation under the extended Af-Pak war bears a relationship to TAPI. Turkmenistan possesses third largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Strategic control over the transport routes out of Turkmenistan have been part of Washington’s agenda since the collapse of the Soviet union in 1991.

What was rarely contemplated in pipeline geopolitics, however, is that Afghanistan is not only adjacent to countries which are rich in oil and natural gas (e.g Turkmenistan), it also possesses within its territory sizeable untapped reserves of natural gas, coal  and oil. Soviet estimates of the 1970s placed “Afghanistan’s ‘explored’ (proved plus probable) gas reserves at about 5  trillion cubic feet. The Hodja-Gugerdag’s initial reserves were placed at slightly more than 2 tcf.” (See, The Soviet Union to retain influence in Afghanistan, Oil & Gas Journal, May 2, 1988).

The US.Energy Information Administration (EIA) acknowledged in 2008 that Afghanistan’s natural gas reserves are “substantial”:

“As northern Afghanistan is a ‘southward extension of Central Asia’s highly prolific, natural gas-prone Amu Darya Basin,’ Afghanistan ‘has proven, probable and possible natural gas reserves of about 5 trillion cubic feet.’ (UPI, John C.K. Daly, Analysis: Afghanistan’s untapped energy, October 24, 2008)

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979, Washington’s objective has been to sustain a geopolitical foothold in Central Asia.

The Golden Crescent Drug Trade

America’s covert war, namely its support to the Mujahideen “Freedom fighters” (aka Al Qaeda) was also geared towards the development of the Golden Crescent trade in opiates, which was used by US intelligence to fund the insurgency directed against the Soviets.1

Instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war and protected by the CIA, the drug trade developed over the years into a highly lucrative multibillion undertaking. It was the cornerstone of America’s covert war in the 1980s. Today, under US-NATO military occupation, the drug trade generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism, Global Research, Montreal, 2005, see also Michel Chossudovsky, Heroin is “Good for Your Health”: Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics Trade, Global Research, April 29, 2007)

Towards an Economy of Plunder

The US media, in chorus, has upheld the “recent discovery” of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth as “a solution” to the development of the country’s war torn economy as well as a means to eliminating poverty. The 2001 US-NATO invasion and occupation has set the stage for their appropriation by Western mining and energy conglomerates.

The war on Afghanistan is  a profit driven “resource war”.

Under US and allied occupation, this mineral wealth is slated to be plundered, once the country has been pacified, by a handful of multinational mining conglomerates. According to Olga Borisova, writing in the months following the October 2001 invasion, the US-led “war on terrorism [will be transformed] into a colonial policy of influencing a fabulously wealthy country.” (Borisova, op cit).

Part of the US-NATO agenda is also to eventually take possession of Afghanistan’s reserves of natural gas, as well as prevent the development of competing Russian, Iranian and Chinese energy interests in Afghanistan.

Note

1. The Golden Crescent trade in opiates constitutes, at present, the centerpiece of Afghanistan’s export economy. The heroin trade, instated at the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and protected by the CIA, generates cash earnings in Western markets in excess of $200 billion dollars a year.

Since the 2001 invasion, narcotics production in Afghanistan  has increased more than 35 times. In 2009, opium production stood at 6900 tons, compared to less than 200 tons in 2001. In this regard, the multibillion dollar earnings resulting from the Afghan opium production largely occur outside Afghanistan. According to United Nations data, the revenues of the drug trade accruing to the local economy are of the order of 2-3 billion annually.

In contrast with the Worldwide sales of heroin resulting from the trade in Afghan opiates, in excess of $200 billion. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America’s War on Terrorism”, Global Research, Montreal, 2005)

How Washington helped Foster the Islamist Uprising in Mali

mali

by Jeremy Keenan

As the French-led military operation begins, Jeremy Keenan reveals how the US and Algeria have been sponsoring terror in the Sahara.

On 12 October 2012, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of a French-drafted resolution asking Mali’s government to draw up plans for a military mission to re-establish control over the northern part of Mali, an area of the Sahara bigger than France. Known as Azawad by local Tuareg people, northern Mali has been under the control of Islamist extremists following a Tuareg rebellion at the beginning of the year. For several months, the international media have been referring to northern Mali as ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’, with calls for international military intervention becoming inexorable.

Alfred de Montesquiou

Calling the shots: a US Special Forces soldier training Malian troops in Kita, May 2010. Alfred de Montesquiou (right)

While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed. No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.

In short, the world’s media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria’s secret service.

The real story of what has been going on borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence

Azawad’s current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar al-Qadafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed Tuareg fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Qadafi regime. But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression and marginalization that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion. In that respect, Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.

Why Algeria and the US needed terrorism

When Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over as Algeria’s President in 1999, the country was faced with two major problems. One was its standing in the world. The role of the army and the DRS (the Algerian intelligence service, see box Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’) in the ‘Dirty War’ had made Algeria a pariah state. The other was that the army, the core institution of the state, was lacking modern high-tech weaponry as a result of international sanctions and arms embargoes.

The solution to both these problems lay in Washington. During the Clinton era, relations between the US and Algeria had fallen to a particularly low level. However, with a Republican victory in the November 2000 election, Algeria’s President Bouteflika, an experienced former Foreign Minister, quickly made his sentiments known to the new US administration and was invited in July 2001 to a summit meeting in Washington with President Bush. Bush listened sympathetically to Bouteflika’s account of how his country had dealt with the fight against terrorists and to his request for specific military equipment that would enable his army to maintain peace, security and stability in Algeria.

At that moment, Algeria had a greater need for US support than vice-versa. But that was soon to change. The 9/11 terrorist attacks precipitated a whole new era in US-Algerian relations. Over the next four years, Bush and Bouteflika met six more times to develop a largely covert and highly duplicitous alliance.

Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’

In January 1992, legislative elections in Algeria were on the point of being won by the Front Islamique du Salut, which would have resulted in the world’s first democratically elected Islamist government. With a ‘green light’ from the US and France, Algeria’s generals annulled the elections in what was effectively a military coup d’état. It led almost immediately to a ‘civil war’ (known as the ‘Dirty War’) that continued through the 1990s, allegedly between the Islamists and the army, in which an estimated 200,000 people were killed.

By 1994, the Algerian regime’s secret intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), had succeeded in infiltrating the main armed Islamist groups, the Groupes Islamiques Armées (GIA), to the extent that even the GIA leader, Djamel Zitouni, was a DRS agent. Indeed, many of the killings and civilian massacres were either undertaken by the DRS masquerading as Islamists or by GIA elements tipped off and protected by the DRS.

John Schindler, a former high-ranking US intelligence officer and member of the National Security Council and now the Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, recently ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria’s creation of terrorists and use of ‘state terrorism’. Writing about the 1990s, he said:

‘The GIA was the creation of the DRS. Using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of [the] GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France. Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by military special units masquerading as Mujahedin, or by GIA squads under DRS control.’ 1

By 1998, the killing had become so bad that many Islamists abandoned the GIA to form the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le combat (GSPC) but it soon became evident that it too had been infiltrated by the DRS.

Although the ‘Dirty War’ began winding down after 1998, it has never really ended. The GSPC, which changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006, is still operative both in northern Algeria and the Sahara-Sahel.

In many respects, little has changed since the 1990s in that the DRS is still creating terrorists and using ‘false flag’ incidents and ‘state terrorism’ as fundamental means of control. The DRS has certainly not changed: its head, General Mohamed Mediène, who was trained by the KGB and once referred to himself as ‘The God of Algeria’,2 was appointed in 1990 and is still in post. He is regarded as the most powerful man in Algeria.

As for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its leaders in the Sahara and Sahel regions, namely Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, Mokhtar ben Mokhtar and Yahia Djouadi (all have many aliases) are either agents of the DRS or closely connected to it.

  1. John Schindler, ‘The ugly truth about Algeria, The National Interest, 10 Jul 2012.
  2. Jeremy Keenan, ‘General Toufik: “God of Algeria”’, Al Jazeera, 29 Sep 2010.

My first book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara, The Dark Sahara (Pluto 2009), described and explained the development of this extraordinary relationship. It revealed why it was that the Bush administration and the regime in Algiers both needed a ‘little more terrorism’ in the region. The Algerians wanted more terrorism to legitimize their need for more high-tech and up-to-date weaponry. The Bush administration, meanwhile, saw the development of such terrorism as providing the justification for launching a new Saharan front in the Global War On Terror. Such a ‘second front’ would legitimize America’s increased militarization of Africa so as better to secure the continent’s natural resources, notably oil. This, in turn, was soon to lead to the creation in 2008 of a new US combat command for Africa – AFRICOM.

The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003 when a group led by an ‘infiltrated’ DRS agent, Amari Saifi (aka Abderrazak Lamari and ‘El Para’), took 32 European tourists hostage in the Algerian Sahara. The Bush administration immediately branded El Para as ‘Osama bin Laden’s man in the Sahara’.

Rumsfeld’s Cuban blueprint

The US government has a long history of using false flag incidents to justify military intervention. The thinking behind the El Para operation in 2003 can actually be traced directly to a similar plan conceived by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff 40 years earlier.

In the wake of the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster – when a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles, supported by US armed forces, attempted unsuccessfully to invade Cuba and overthrow the government of Fidel Castro – the US Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up plans, codenamed Operation Northwoods, to justify a US military invasion of Cuba. The plan was presented to President John F Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, on 13 March 1962. Entitled ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret),’ the Northwoods Operation proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war that the Joint Chiefs of Staff intended to launch against Cuba. It called on the CIA and other operatives to undertake a range of atrocities. As US investigative journalist James Bamford described it: ‘Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer [Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff] and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war against Fidel Castro’s Cuba.’

The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003

The plan was ultimately rejected by President Kennedy. Operation Northwoods remained ‘classified’ and unknown to the American public until declassified by the National Security Archive and revealed by Bamford in April 2001. In 2002, a not dissimilar plan was presented to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board. Excerpts from its ‘Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’ were revealed on 16 August 2002, with Pamela Hess, William Arkin and David Isenberg, amongst others, publishing further details and analysis of the plan. The plan recommended the creation of a ‘Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group’ (P20G as it became known), a covert organization that would carry out secret missions to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to ‘counter-attack’ by US forces.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

My new book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara (The Dying Sahara, Pluto 2013) will present strong evidence that the El Para operation was the first ‘test run’ of Rumsfeld’s decision, made in 2002, to operationalize the P20G plan. In his recent investigation of false flag operations, Nafeez Ahmed states that the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was told by a Pentagon advisor that the Algerian [El Para] operation was a pilot for the new Pentagon covert P20G programme.

Win McNamee / Reuters

So happy together: Algeria’s then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika with George W Bush in 2001. Win McNamee / Reuters

The Sahara-Sahel front is not the only case of such fabricated incidents in the Global War On Terror. In May 2008, President George W Bush requested some $400 million in covert funding for terrorist groups across much of the Middle East-Afghanistan region in a covert offensive directed ultimately against the Iranian regime. An initial outlay of $300 million was approved by Congress.

Since the El Para operation, Algeria’s DRS, with the complicity of the US and the knowledge of other Western intelligence agencies, has used Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, through the almost complete infiltration of its leadership, to create a terrorist scenario. Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false.

The Dying Sahara analyzes every supposed ‘terrorism’ incident in the region over this last, terrible decade. It shows that a few are genuine, but that the vast majority were fabricated or orchestrated by the DRS. Some incidents, such as the widely reported Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack on Algeria’s Djanet airport in 2007, simply didn’t happen. What actually transpired was that a demonstration against the Algerian administration over unemployment by local Tuareg youths ended with the youths firing shots at the airport. It was nothing to do with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false

In order to justify or increase what I have called their ‘terrorism rents’ from Washington, the governments of Mali, Niger and Algeria have been responsible on at least five occasions since 2004 for provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, as in 2004 (Niger), 2005 (Tamanrasset, Algeria), 2006 (Mali), 2007-09 (Niger and Mali). In July 2005, for example, Tuareg youths rioted in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset, setting ablaze some 40 government and commercial buildings. It was finally proven in court that the riots and arson attacks had been led by Algeria’s police as agents provocateurs. The matter was hushed up and some 80 youths freed and compensated. But the object of the exercise had been achieved: the DRS’s allies in Washington were able to talk of ‘putative terrorism’ among the Tuareg of Tamanrasset, thus lending more justification to George Bush’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative and the Pentagon’s almost concurrent ‘Operation Flintlock’ military exercise across the Sahara.

Around the time of the El Para operation, the Pentagon produced a series of maps of Africa, depicting most of the Sahara-Sahel region as a ‘Terror Zone’ or ‘Terror Corridor’. That has now become a self-fulfilled prophecy. In addition, the region has also become one of the world’s main drug conduits. In the last few years, cocaine trafficking from South America through Azawad to Europe, under the protection of the region’s political and military élites, notably Mali’s former president and security forces and Algeria’s DRS, has burgeoned. The UN Office of Drugs Control recently estimated that 60 per cent of Europe’s cocaine passed through the region. It put its value, at Paris street prices, at some $11 billion, with an estimated $2 billion remaining in the region.

Reuters / Stringer

Halos of power: Malian coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo (right) with interim president Dioncounda Traoré in April 2012. Reuters / Stringer

The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating, not least for the regional economy. More than 60 kidnappings of Westerners have led to the collapse of the tourism industry through which Tuareg communities in Mali, Niger and Algeria previously acquired much of their cash income. For example, the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania, in addition to subsequent kidnappings, resulted in only 173 tourists visiting Mauritania in 2011, compared with 72,500 in 2007. The loss of tourism has deprived the region of tens of millions of dollars and forced more and more Tuareg (and others), especially young men, into the ‘criminality’ of banditry and drug trafficking.

Mali’s current mess

While it will be clear from all this that Mali’s latest Tuareg rebellion had a complex background, the rebellion that began in January 2012 was different from all previous Tuareg rebellions in that there was a very real likelihood that it would succeed, at least in taking control of the whole of northern Mali. The creation of the rebel MNLA in October 2011 (see box below) was therefore not only a potentially serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of the Tuareg, both domestically and in the neighbouring Sahel countries. The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own backyard, could not be countenanced.

The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating

The Algerian intelligence agency’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness of the MNLA. This is precisely what we have seen happening in northern Mali over the last nine months.

Although the Algerian government has denied doing so, it sent some 200 Special Forces into Azawad on 20 December 2011. Their purpose appears to have been to:

  • protect Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which had moved from its training base(s) in southern Algeria into northern Mali around 2008
  • assess the strengths and intentions of the MNLA, and
  • help establish two ‘new’ salafist-jihadist terrorist groups in the region – Ansar al-Din and MUJAO.

The leaders of these new groups – Ansar al-Din’s Iyad ag Ghaly, and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi – are both closely associated with the Algerian intelligence agency, the DRS. Although Ansar al-Din and MUJAO both started out as few in number, they were immediately supported with personpower in the form of seasoned, well-trained killers from the DRS’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb brigades. This explains why the Islamists were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically and militarily.

Although Algeria’s strategy has been effective, at least so far, in achieving its object of weakening and discrediting the MNLA, it has already turned the region into a human catastrophe. Foreign military intervention now looks increasingly likely. That is something to which Algeria has always been strongly opposed in that it regards itself, not France, as the hegemonic power in the Sahel. The UN Security Council’s 12 October Resolution effectively gave Algeria a last window of opportunity to ‘rein in its dogs’ and engineer a peaceful political solution. But, as anger against the Islamists mounts and the desire for revenge from Mali’s civil society grows ever stronger, a peaceful solution is looking increasingly unlikely.

Mali’s Tuareg rebellions

The Tuareg people number approximately 2-3 million and are the indigenous population of much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their largest number, estimated at 800,000, live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller populations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya.

There have been five Tuareg rebellions in Mali since Independence, in addition to three in Niger and sporadic unrest in Algeria. The latest Tuareg rebellion in Mali, by the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), began in January 2012. The MNLA comprised Tuareg who had returned from Libya around October 2011, rebels who had not laid down arms after the 2007-09 uprising and others who had defected from the Malian army. Their number was estimated at around 3,000. By mid-March, they had driven Mali’s ill-equipped and ill-led forces out of most of northern Mali (Azawad), meeting little resistance.

Following this humiliation of Mali’s army, soldiers in the Kati barracks near Bamako mutinied on 22 March, an incident that led to a junta of junior officers taking power in the country. Within a week, the three northern provincial capitals of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were in rebel hands, and on 5 April the MNLA declared Azawad an independent state.

The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international support. One reason for this was because of the alliance between the MNLA and Ansar al-Din, a newly created jihadist movement led by a Tuareg notable, Iyad ag Ghaly, and another jihadist group, Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa – MUJAO). Both Ansar al-Din and MUJAO were connected to and supported by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). By May, it was these Islamist groups, not the MNLA, who were calling the political and military shots in Azawad.

By the end of June, tension between the MNLA and the Islamists broke into open fighting, resulting in the MNLA being driven out of Gao and becoming increasingly marginalized politically. Since then, the Islamists have imposed strict sharia law in Azawad, especially in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Summary executions, amputations, stonings and other such atrocities, as well as the destruction of holy shrines in Timbuktu – UNESCO world heritage sites – are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court. By August, nearly half a million people had fled or been displaced.

I have warned on numerous occasions in the past decade that the way in which terrorism was being fabricated and orchestrated in the Sahara-Sahel by the Algerian DRS, with the knowledge of the US and other Western powers, would inevitably result in a catastrophic outcome, quite possibly in the form of region-wide conflagration. Unless something fairly miraculous can be achieved by around the turn of the year, northern Mali looks like becoming the site for the start of just such a conflagration.

Having said that, there is the prospect of one appalling scenario that is being raised by some of the local, mostly Tuareg, militia commanders. They are postulating as to whether Algeria’s DRS and its Western allies have been using the Azawad situation to encourage the concentration of ‘salafist-jihadists’ into the region – in the form of the long-talked about ‘Saharan emirate’ – before ‘eradicating’ them. In that instance, Algeria’s DRS would pluck out its ‘agents’ and leave the foot-soldiers – the Islamist fanatics – to face the bombardment.

But whatever dire scenario develops in Mali, when you hear the news stories related to it, do not by any means think: ‘oh, just another war in Africa’. Remember this murky, squalid background and how Washington’s Global War On Terror has come home to roost for the peoples of the Sahara.

Notes

On The News With Thom Hartmann: Virginia Gerrymanders Presidential Votes, Robin Hood Tax Hits...

Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. Virginia is now poised to be the first state to move legislation forward, which will rig the Electoral College to benefit Republican presidential candidates in the future. On Wednesday, legislation to dole out Electoral College votes based on gerrymandered Congressional districts, instead of the current winner-take-all system, advanced out of a state Senate subcommittee. It now heads to full committee, where it will likely be approved, before heading to the full state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. So, Republicans have actually taken rigging the next presidential election seriously, with efforts also underway in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio to do the same thing. Progressives must counter with an equally aggressive push for a national popular vote. Nine states have already passed National Popular Vote laws, which commit their electors to vote for whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, even if that candidate lost the state Electoral College vote. Those nine states that have passed national popular vote laws - including California, Maryland, and Illinois - account for 132 electoral votes among them, nearly half of the 270 needed in the Electoral College to win the White House. If this trend continues, and enough states sign up to bring their combined Electoral College votes to 270, then the Electoral College, which Republicans are currently trying to rig, dies just like that. Let's get active and fight fire with fire.

In screwed news...Welcome to America, where you have to go to jail to receive the healthcare you need. The Sun-Sentinel, out of Florida, is reporting on a man who threatened to kill President Obama just so he could be arrested, thrown in jail, and receive much-needed medical care. Fifty-seven year old Stephen Espalin told a judge last week that he, "would have no intent to hurt the president", but he knew federal agents would arrive and "take care of [him]." Espalin made the threat against the President after he was kicked out of a hospital for giving a false name, and lying about having health insurance. Florida's Governor Rick Scott is critical of Obamacare, and is unlikely to adopt the provision in the law that expands Medicaid coverage in his state, which would help people like Espalin. But now that Espalin is headed to jail, he will receive the care he needs. He's already receiving chemotherapy, and once he begins his four year prison sentence, he's scheduled to have heart surgery. This is a cautionary tale of what happens to a nation that doesn't provide basic medical care to its citizens. Either we make healthcare a basic human right in America, just like it is elsewhere in the developed world, or we commit ourselves to unrest, desperation, and a sick population.

In the best of the rest of the news...

Robin Hood is coming to Europe. On Tuesday, 11 European nations agreed to put in place a financial transaction tax – also known as a Robin Hood tax – on the banks. Such a tax could generate billions in much needed revenue for the cash-strapped continent. The tax, which will range between .1% and .01%, will be applied to all trading in stocks, bonds, and derivatives. According to a statement from the European Council, the purpose of this new tax is, "for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets." The participating nations in this Robin Hood tax make up 90% of the EU – and it's estimated the tax will bring in roughly 37 billion euros annually. According to the European Commissioner in charge of tax policy, Tuesday's agreement was "a major milestone in tax history." Now let's kick start the movement here in the United States to create our own Robin Hood tax.

Well, there's at least one place now that women will soon see workplace equality: in the military. Today, the Pentagon officially announced that it's lifting its ban on women in combat, potentially opening up more than 200,000 new combat positions in the military to women. This decision will pave the way for women to serve on the front lines, for the first time in the history of our armed services. The military will have until May to come up with plans to implement these changes – and each branch of the military will have until 2016 to get official exemptions for certain combat roles, which will remain exclusive to men. From allowing gays to openly serve, to now allowing women in combat, President Obama has taken significant steps to bring equality to our military – and he should applauded for his efforts.

Beware of online surveillance. This week, Google released its Transparency Report, revealing a massive increase in government surveillance. According to the report, Google received over 21,000 requests for data from governments and courts worldwide, just in the second half of 2012. That's a 70% increase from 2009. During that same period, the United State government made the most requests – with more than 8,000 demands for online data. Protecting our online privacy from prying government, and corporate eyes, is the new frontier – and "we the people" are currently losing this struggle.

And finally...following reports that a drone stike in Yemen mistakenly killed two children, the United Nations is launching an official investigation into the legality and death toll of drone warfare. The investigation will focus on 25 different drones strikes carried out by US, UK, and Israeli forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. According to Benn Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, this investigation is, "a response to the fact that there's international concern rising exponentially, surrounding the issue of remote targeted killings through the use of unmanned vehicles." This will be President Obama's biggest foreign policy challenge in his second term – winding down our deadly covert drone warfare programs. And it's up to us to push him to do what' right.

And that's the way it is today – Thursday, January 24, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

What Obama’s Nominations Mean: The Military Is Being Downsized, But CIA Covert Operations Are...

persiangulf

The CIA Is Taking Over the Dirty Work in Fighting America’s Wars

Obama has nominated a veteran – not a chickenhawk – to serve as Secretary of Defense.  The Washington Post reports that Chuck Hagel:

… was deputy director of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration and later served as president of the United Service Organizations.

U.S. News and World Report notes:

The Vietnam War veteran and the recipient of the purple heart, Hagel would be the first enlisted soldier in the military to rise to the ranks of defense secretary.

Indeed, while all of the neocon warmongers are chickenhawks who dodged service to their country, many veterans and active-duty service men are opposed to the endless wars, which only weaken our national security and increase terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

 What Obamas Nominations Mean: The Military Is Being Downsized ... But Covert Operations Are Gearing Up

No wonder Hagel is more moderate than those who want to start conflagrations all over the world.

U.S. News and World Report  continues:

While Hagel is a Republican, his views on foreign policy alarm some of his GOP colleagues. During his time in the Senate, Hagel was verbose in his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he voted against sanctioning Iran on multiple occasions and has suggested Israel should negotiate with Hamas directly. Republicans and Democrats alike worry he’s not a strong enough friend to Israel …

The Washington Post reports:

Last year, Hagel endorsed a report by the advocacy group Global Zero that called for an 80 percent reduction in the U.S. nuclear-weapons arsenal. Such a cut could save $100 billion over 10 years, the group estimated.

On the other hand, Obama’s nominee for CIA director – John Brennan – endorsed torture, assassination of unidentified strangers without due process, and spying on all Americans. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

Brennan, as a Bush-era CIA official, had expressly endorsed Bush’s programs of torture (other than waterboarding) and rendition and also was a vocal advocate of immunizing lawbreaking telecoms for their role in the illegal Bush NSA eavesdropping program.

***

Obama then appointed him as his top counter-terrorism adviser…. In that position, Brennan last year got caught outright lying when he claimed Obama’s drone program caused no civilian deaths in Pakistan over the prior year. He also spouted complete though highly influential falsehoods to the world in the immediate aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing, including claiming that bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with Navy SEALS and had “used his wife as a human shield”. Brennan has also been in charge of many of Obama’s most controversial and radical policies, including “signature strikes” in Yemen – targeting people without even knowing who they are – and generally seizing the power to determine who will be marked for execution without any due process, oversight or transparency.

What do these two nominations tell us?

That the Obama administration doesn’t plan on fighting as many conventional wars with men in uniform – soldiers, sailors, pilots and marines – but does plan to crank up assassinations, drone strikes and other covert operations worldwide.

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Dave Won’t Win

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 8th January 2013...

1) DAVE WON'T WIN

Last March, I penned a column which was entitled: "Why the odds are against a Tory majority."

Almost a year later, I can't help but notice that some shrewd Tory politicians are lining up to agree with me. Former Tory MP Paul Goodman wrote last week: "Two years out from 2015, one fact is already evident: David Cameron will not win an overall majority."

Today, the influential Tory peer and pollster Michael Ashcroft joins the fray. From the Huffington Post UK:

"David Cameron's chances of winning the next election are 'remote', top Tory donor and election strategist Lord Ashcroft has warned.

"Writing on the ConservativeHome website this morning, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party cited bookmakers' views that an overall majority for Labour is the most likely result in May 2015.

"'With the polls as they are, and political prospects as they currently seem, it would be hard to argue that the bookmakers are seriously misguided. Any realistic survey of the political landscape surely shows the odds are against the Tories metaphorically as well as literally,' he said.

"Ashcroft added: 'The odds on a Conservative majority look comparatively remote.'

"The peer concludes that the combination of traditional Labour voters and disaffected Lib Dems means Ed Miliband 'ought to be able to put together 40 per cent of the vote without getting out of bed' at the next election."

"Without getting out of bed"? Uh-oh.

2) DIVIDE AND RULE

Ahead of today's Commons vote - on the below-inflation 1% rise in benefits and tax credits announced in George Osborne's Autumn Statement last month - the Guardian splashes on Nick Clegg's attack on "Conservative efforts to single out the 'undeserving' poor":

"With the debate over welfare savings likely to form one of the central political battlegrounds of 2013, the deputy prime minister, speaking at a joint press conference with David Cameron at Downing Street, said: 'I don't think it helps at all to try and portray that decision as one that divides one set of people against another, the deserving and the undeserving poor, people in work and out of work.'

"It is understood Clegg is also involved in a backstage battle on how to ensure that coalition plans for childcare will particularly help the working poor, rather than offer reliefs to the middle class.

"... In a sign that the Lib Dem indiscipline may spread to the Commons as the pressure of the election nears, the former children's minister Sarah Teather announced she would be rebelling in Tuesday's vote to formally break the link between benefits and inflation."

As the FT's Jim Pickard observed on Twitter: "Anyone would think Teather has a tiny majority in a not very affluent London seat."

Meanwhile, Labour MPs will be delighed to see the latest report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. From the Telegraph:

"Seven million working families will lose money under Coalition plans to cut the value of benefits payments, economists have estimated.

"The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the changes set out in legislation to be debated in the Commons today will affect far more working households than workless ones.

"... The average loss will be £165 per year, the IFS calculated."

My own take - "Strivers vs Shirkers? Ten Things They Don't Tell You About the Welfare Budget" - is published online here.

Oh, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has just been on the Today programme, defending the 1% squeeze on benefits and tax credits and claiming no benefit claimants have been "demonised" on his "watch". Er, okay...

3) RONSEALED WITH A RESIGNATION

Downing Street spin doctors won't be too pleased with this morning's headlines, in the wake of yesterday's Dave&Nick show in Number 10.

The FT front page headline reads:

"Strains crack coalition show of unity"

The Times front page headline reads:

"Coalition heads for new rift as Tory quits Cabinet"

The paper reports:

"David Cameron is ready to open a new split with Nick Clegg over Tory-friendly boundary changes, as a departing Cabinet minister laid bare the tensions at the top of the coalition.

"Lord Strathclyde, who resigned as Leader of the House of Lords yesterday, conceded that his 'irritation' with the Liberal Democats had prompted him to complain that the coalition in the Upper House was broken. He also criticised Mr Clegg for changing his mind on the boundary review, an issue over which he feels betrayed by the Lib Dems, The Times understands.

"Mr Cameron signalled yesterday that he was ready to confront Mr Clegg again over the issue. The Prime Minister regards it as very much alive, despite Lib Dem efforts to kill it off."

As for the actual 'performance' delivered by the two men inside their wood-panelled room in Number 10, well, to be blunt, it was pretty dull - and the sketchwriters weren't particularly impressed, either. Writing in the Times, Ann Treneman picks up on the PM's bizarre analogy ("To me it's not a marriage," he told reporters, "it is, if you like, it's a Ronseal deal, it does what it says on the tin"):

"Nick's face had that expression that married couples will recognise as one of carefully constructed blankness. Dave had just compared their relationship — the most powerful crucial relationship in the nation — to a tin of wood preserver. Surely this took winter gardening tasks, not to mention product placement, to an entirely new realm. After all, what Ronseal Shed and Fence Preserver actually says on the tin is: 'Colours, Waterproofs and Preserves Against Rot and Decay.' It says nothing about boundary changes and House of Lords reform."

Writing in the Mail, Quentin Letts says:

"As a work of drama, the two men gave performances that were controlled rather than inspiring.

"It was really just a PR exercise, something to stick in the Downing Street diary, something they could all point to when asked, on getting home to their better halves, 'so what did you do today, dear?' Was it perchance a little flat? Possibly. As flat as publican's ullage? Less fizzy than week-old taramasalata? That might be a touch harsh."

But here's a question: why on earth did David Cameron allow Lord Strathclyde, the veteran leader of the Tories in the Lords, to announce his resignation from the Cabinet on the same day that the coalition was doing its very public self-assessment? Where's Andy Coulson when you need him, eh?

The Independent's splash headline sums it up:

"Resignation of top Tory lord leaves a stain on PM's 'Ronseal' relaunch"

4) DEBATING DAVE

So what else did we discover from the Downing Street presser? My colleague Ned Simons reports:

"David Cameron has insisted he is in favour of TV election debates, but refused to commit himself to taking part in 2015.

"Speaking at a joint press conference in Downing Street on Monday, Cameron was challenged over whether he would sign up to the head-to-head clashes at the next election.

"'On TV debates, I'm in favour of them, I think they are good and I think we should go on having them, and I will play my part in trying to make that happen,' he said."

There's a simple solution that would force Dave to commit to participating in pre-election debates with Clegg and Miliband in 2015 - the broadcasters should just threaten to replace him with Nigel Farage.

5) 'CALL CLEGG'

Forget TV debates - talk radio is what it's all about. Nick Clegg's decision to moonlight as a 'presenter' on LBC has upset the Sun:

"The Deputy PM stunned Westminster by announcing he will appear on Call Clegg every Thursday morning.

"Critics branded the decision a desperate attempt by the Lib Dem leader to win back voters.

"Some Lib Dems fear the show is a gamble that could backfire, with Mr Clegg facing a torrent of abusive calls.

"The new half-hour slot at 9am will be part of Nick Ferrari's morning show on LBC and will be aired across London — and online for other parts of the country."

Set your alarm clocks!

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of 'Hard of Hearing' Darth Vader, the rather wonderful creation of comedy writer Jon Friedman.

6) TORTURE? THAT'S OLD NEWS

Yesterday, this Memo reported on the row in the United States over President Obama's decision to nominate Vietnam veteran and former two-term Republican senator Chuck Hagel to be his new defence secretary. The neoconservatives in Washington DC don't like the fact that the plain-speaking and independent-minded Hagel doesn't seem too keen on bombing Iran or giving a pass to Israel in the occupied territories.

So shouldn't the real 'row' be over Obama's other national-security team nomination? The decision to nominate the torture-tainted White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan - also the architect of Obama's drone policy - to be the new director of the CIA?

The Guardian reports:

"To replace the disgraced general David Petraeus at the CIA, Obama picked his counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan. That choice attracted criticism because of Brennan's involvement with the Bush administration's backing for harsh interrogation techniques that many have described as torture, although Brennan denies he supported their use."

The FT adds:

"Mr Brennan's tenure at the agency during Mr Bush's presidency drew criticism from liberals when Mr Obama considered naming him CIA director after the 2008 election. Mr Brennan denied being involved in the Bush administration''s much-criticised interrogation techniques but still withdrew his name from consideration."

Yet the paper concludes:

"White House officials say they do not expect Mr Brennan to face similar trouble this time, given his four years of service in the Obama administration."

Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald makes the case against Brennan, and reminds us of his actual record, here.

7) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 412

From the Times splash:

"Downing Street was accused of playing politics with soldiers’ jobs last night, as commanders voiced fears that thousands of Army redundancies were leaving critical roles unfilled.

:Documents seen by The Times show how No 10 has leant on military chiefs to accept voluntary rather than compulsory redundancies when 5,000 posts are due to be cut this month.

8) PLEBGATE VS...ORDINARY CRIMES?

Is the Met's investigation into the 'Plebgate' row distracting the police from tackling more mainstream crimes? That seems to be a real concern for the Home Affairs select committee chair.

From the Mirror:

"An MP yesterday raised concerns over the number of police working on specialist operations — including the 'Plebgate' investigation.

"Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz asked Theresa May if the Met had enough people to deal with 'bread and butter' policing in London.

"Last week The Mirror revealed how more than 800 diplomatic protection group officers will be quizzed about Andrew Mitchell's 'pleb' row.

Later today, the committee will grill Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on Mitchell, plebs and the Downing Street coppers. Watch this space.

9) 'WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER'

From the Mail's splash:

"The boss of an energy giant that has doubled its prices in just seven years could pocket a £13million payoff.

"Phil Bentley, who is to leave British Gas within months, has presided over above-inflation hikes that have pushed average bills past £1,300 a year.

"The latest punishing rise of 6 per cent comes as millions endure the greatest squeeze on living standards since the 1920s."

10) SORRELL'S STRIKER

My favourite story of the day, via the Guardian front page:

"Ronaldo, the World Cup winner and highest scorer in the tournament's history after spells at Inter and AC Milan as well as Real Madrid, plans to spend several months in London from next month studying advertising at the global ad firm WPP, run by Sir Martin Sorrell. He retired from football in 2011.

"'Eighteen years have passed and I've hardly studied at all; I feel a great need to become a student again,' Ronaldo told Brazil's Meio & Mensagem newspaper. 'I've learned a lot in life, travelling, living abroad, just in the school of life. But I also have to immerse myself in something.

"'Learning from Martin Sorrell will be perfect. I won't leave him alone, I'll be asking him questions the whole day, just like a striker. He's going to have to tell me everything.'"

You wouldn't want to take on WPP's lunchtime five-a-side team from now on, would you?

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@PickardJE Coalition mid-term review. 75 per cent what they've done; 20 per cent what we already knew they said they would do next. 5 per cent new-ish

@Labourpaul The 'Ronseal deal' line is all over the media - but was it scripted or an ad lib?

@PeterHain Labour voting tonight against cuts of up to £1300 for 4.6m women, half working. Two thirds hit by tax credit and benefit cuts are women

900 WORDS OR MORE

Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "The austerity Government’s pledge to do what it says on the tin beyond 2015 shifts the centre of political gravity."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "Forward, say Cameron and Clegg. But to where?"

Aditya Chakrabortty, writing in the Guardian, produces an "obituary" for the welfare state: "After decades of public illness, Beveridge's most famous offspring has died."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

How the CIA and FBI can read your email

Zack Whittaker | The U.S. government -- and likely your own government, for that matter -- is either watching your online activity every minute of the...

Romney surrogates manipulating US electoral process

Daya Gamage | Run up to the November 2000 presidential elections in the United States in which Republican George W. Bush and Democrat (vice president)...

Victims Families: 7/7 investigation a “whitewash”

Families of victims of the July 7, 2005 bombings in London have denounced a parliamentary investigation into the events as a “whitewash”. They accuse...

On British “success” in Iraq

By David Morrison | “Tony Blair, I'm afraid, would never accept that our foreign policy actually had any impact on radicalization. …That's clearly rubbish.”...

Lendman: Obama’s ‘War on Terror’

By Stephen Lendman  The language is softened and deceptive. The strategy and tactics are not. The "war on terror" continues. Promised change is talk, not...

UK government bans photography

libertyandsolidarity.org In a letter to the National Union of Journalists, the Minister for security and counter-terrorism, Vernon Kay, clarified that the police may stop...

VIDEO: Centuries of British freedoms being ‘broken’ by security state

Centuries of British civil liberties risk being broken by the relentless pressure from the ‘security state’, the country’s top prosecutor has warned. By Christopher Hope Outgoing...

Gitmo ‘Justice’ for US Citizens?

By Robert Parry | A conservative-dominated U.S. Appeals Court has opened the door for President George W. Bush or a successor to throw American...

Torture: MPs call for inquiry into MI5 role

By Ian Cobain | MPs are calling for an investigation into allegations that British intelligence has "outsourced" the torture of British citizens to Pakistani...

Fortress Britain

By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad | “The public has to be more alert”, warned one “international terrorism expert” in the Daily Mail late last year,...

All War All The Time

By Sam Smith | As it tries to recover from the most expensive failure in American military history, the Pentagon has its eyes on...

Roots of surveillance standoff go back decades

By Shane Harris | In the old days, everyone was linked to a lug nut, and Jim Kallstrom liked it that way. It was...

The Challenge Of Modern Slavery

By Loretta Napoleoni | Slavery is in our refrigerators. From fruit to beef, from sugar to coffee, slave labor brings food to our tables....

Pentagon Targeted Iran for Regime Change after 9/11

By Gareth Porter | Three weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, former U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not...

Use of Secret Spy Law is Widespread

By Michael Howie | NEW spy laws are being used by Scottish councils to track people suspected of housing-benefit fraud, selling cigarettes to children...

Home Secretary accused of breaching election rules

By David Barrett, PA The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was accused of breaching election rules today by making a major anti-terrorism announcement during the run-up...

MI5 Wants Oyster Card Travel Data

Counter-terrorism experts call it a 'force multiplier': an attack combining slaughter and electronic chaos. Now Britain's security services want total access to commuters' travel...

An overview of the NSA’s domestic spying program

In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Siobhan Gorman pulled together the disparate threads of reporting on what's known of the NSA's secret domestic spy program,...

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home

Congress Considers Methods to Disrupt Movements in the United States Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the...

Travel terror security stepped up

Mr Brown said security would have to be tight at airports Security will be stepped up at railway stations,...

Will 9/11 and BAE Derail Cheney’s Plan To Bomb Iran?

by Jeffrey Steinberg Two recent events, both occurring in the context of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's visit to London at the end of October, have...

So, JUST HOW many security systems failed on 911? All of them!!‏

The following list is from Jim Marrs book Inside Job. - A wide variety of standard defense mechanisms designed to prevent such an attack systematically...

Spy laws track mobile phones

Tom Allard SECURITY agencies would be able to secretly track people via their mobile phones and monitor their internet browsing for up to three months...

Author under gag order assails producer, ABC for ‘Path to 9/11’

Peter Lance Last Wednesday, in a front page LA Times Calendar piece “Clinton and the missing DVD,” reporter Martin Miller gave voice to the latest...

Listen Up, Mr. President

Fred Kaplan Two myths have sprung up around the House and Senate bills that require President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. One is...